Berkman Buzz: February 18, 2015

February 18, 2015
The Berkman Buzz is a weekly collection of news, work and conversations from around the Berkman community.
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Susan Crawford has been appointed clinical professor of law at Harvard Law School. She had been the John A. Reilly Visiting Professor in Intellectual Property at HLS. She has also been a faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society since 2012.

"Susan Crawford's teaching, writing, and public service make her a genuine leader in technology, law, and innovation during this time of crucial challenges and opportunities," said Martha Minow, dean of Harvard Law. "Her creativity, foresight, and clarity help cities become more responsive to their residents, raise questions for public debate about access and equality, and open tremendous opportunities for students and citizens to participate in and affect the information revolution. I am thrilled to welcome her to the full-time faculty of the Law School and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society."

Read the full announcement

The Network of Centers Releases New Report on Online Intermediaries

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Online intermediaries in various forms - including search engines, social media, or app platforms - play a constitutive role in today's digital environment. They have become a new type of powerful institution in the 21st century that shape the public networked sphere, and are subject to intense and often controversial policy debates. This paper focuses on one particular force shaping the emergence and future evolution of online intermediaries: the rapidly changing landscape of intermediary governance at the intersection of law, technology, norms, and markets. Building upon eight in-depth case studies and use cases, respectively, this paper seeks to distill key observations and provide a high-level analysis of some of the structural elements that characterize varying governance regimes, with a focus on intermediary liability regimes and their evolution.

Read the announcement | About the Network of Centers | @Network_Centers

Helping Launch the NetGain Challenge


by Ethan Zuckerman

This morning, I'm at the Ford Foundation in New York City as part of the launch event for NetGain. NetGain is a new effort launched by the Mozilla, Ford, Open Society, Macarthur and Knight Foundations, to bring the philanthropic community together to tackle the greatest obstacles to digital rights, online equality and the use of the internet to promote social justice....

For the past six months, I've been working with Jenny Toomey and Darren Walker at Ford, John Palfrey at Phillips Andover, and friends at these different foundations to launch the NetGain challenges. We're asking people around the world to propose difficult problems about the open internet that they think governments and companies have not been able to solve. We're collecting these challenges at, and asking participating foundations to take the lead on one or more challenges, coordinating a new set of investments in tackling that problem.

From Ethan Zuckerman's blog | @ethanz

New Radio Berkman episode: Prometheus and the Dolphins

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Want to create artificially intelligent machines? Want to find aliens? You might want to try talking to nature first.

Philosophers, animal behaviorists, and scientists have worked for decades to get animals to speak "human." Researchers have even cohabited with primates and dolphins to see if they could somehow connect. Some suggested that by bringing animals into the human community we could actually keep from killing ourselves with increasingly risky technologies....

Matthew Battles of the Berkman Center's MetaLAB has been looking at the cultural dimensions of science in the 20th century. He spoke with us this week about how science helps us understand animals, technology, and our place in the universe.

Listen to the episode | About Radio Berkman

One Doctor Asks: Why Are We Arguing About Measles Vaccines In 2015?

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by Rebecca Weintraub

This week, as I juggled work, family and shoveling, I prepared a lecture on promoting equity in health delivery. My first slide is a picture of the Ebola virus, and as of this morning, my last slide is a map of the ongoing measles outbreak. That's because this week, we've heard a clear public health message from both President Obama and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy: Vaccines are safe and effective.

Why is this message being repeated in 2015?

As a mother and physician, I am dismayed that all Americans are not practicing this guidance based on evidence from 40 years ago. Vaccines are safe and effective. There is no link between vaccines and autism.

From WBUR's CommonHealth blog

The Good Thing About the Disney Measles Outbreak


by Claire McCarthy

Cases of measles linked to an exposure at Disneyland continue to spread, not just in California, but in several other states and in Mexico. The numbers of cases are climbing - and so are the number of exposed people who might get sick - and expose more people before they realize they are sick. Measles is extremely contagious; if someone has it, they will infect 90 percent of the people around them who aren't immunized.

It's scary, because measles can be dangerous. 1 in 20 people who get it will get pneumonia. 1 in 1,000 will get encephalitis, a brain inflammation that can lead to seizures and brain damage. 1 or 2 in 1,000 will die.

But as scary as this outbreak is, it may ultimately be a good thing - because it may get more parents to immunize their children.

From The Boston Children's Hospital Health blog

Your TV May Be Watching You

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by Bruce Schneier

Earlier this week, we learned that Samsung televisions are eavesdropping on their owners. If you have one of their Internet-connected smart TVs, you can turn on a voice command feature that saves you the trouble of finding the remote, pushing buttons and scrolling through menus. But making that feature work requires the television to listen to everything you say. And what you say isn't just processed by the television; it may be forwarded over the Internet for remote processing. It's literally Orwellian.

This discovery surprised people, but it shouldn't have. The things around us are increasingly computerized, and increasingly connected to the Internet. And most of them are listening.

From | @schneierblog

Techniques for Unleashing Student Work from Learning Management Systems


by Justin Reich

Helping students become networked learners begins by thinking carefully about where we conduct our online learning. Most online learning in higher education and in K-12 takes place in Learning Management Systems (LMS) such as Canvas, Moodle or Blackboard. In higher education in particular, these LMS are designed to scale up the distribution of course materials - by default they are configured to distribute syllabi, course readings and assignments. Student contributions are usually limited to discussion forums and assignment submissions.

From KQED's MindShift blog | @bjfr

Bangladeshi Publisher Faces Death Threats Over Translation of Controversial Iranian Writer's Book

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by Rezwan

The publisher of a Bangla translation of a controversial book by 20th-century Iranian rationalist and politician Ali Dashti about the Prophet Muhammad's life has received death threats after displaying the work at Bangladesh's national book fair.

Hardline religious groups, mainly Hefazat-e-Islam, have called on authorities to prosecute publishing house Rodela Prokashoni over the translation of "23 Years: A Study of the Prophetic Career of Muhammad." Rodela Prokashoni's website appeared to be hacked on February 14, 2015, and their office in Banglabazar was attacked on Sunday, according to a report in the Bangla Tribune. No one was injured.

From Global Voices | @globalvoices


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The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University was founded to explore cyberspace, share in its study, and help pioneer its development. For more information, visit

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Last updated

February 18, 2015