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Keep track of Berkman-related news and conversations by subscribing to this page using your RSS feed reader. This aggregation of blogs relating to the Berkman Center does not necessarily represent the views of the Berkman Center or Harvard University but is provided as a convenient starting point for those who wish to explore the people and projects in Berkman's orbit. As this is a global exercise, times are in UTC.

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May 23, 2019

Global Voices
In the UK, Timorese celebrated 17 years since the restoration of Timor-Leste's independence

Timor-Leste

Timorese present their teams at the tournament 20 May Cup IV. Photo by Dalia Kiakilir, GV.

On 20 May, Timorese across the world celebrate the restoration of Timor-Leste’s independence, declared on 20 May 2002 after it was occupied by Indonesia in 1976.

The University of Oxford Brookes, in the city of Oxford, UK, hosted the event “20 May”, organized by Timorese resident in the country. The event had cultural and sporting elements, including the fourth football tournament “20 May Cup” organized in partnership with the Timorese Sports Association.

The author attended the event and spoke with Acácio Marques, one of its organizers. He said:

Acácio Marques, president of the organizing committee for the event 20 May, 2019. Photo by Dalia Kiakilir, used with permission.

Hau hanoin loron espesial ne’e furak tebe-tebes ba ita hotu, atu hametin liu-tan ita nia unidade. Atu hateten katak hau haksolok tebes ho ita hotu nia prezensa iha fatin ne’e hodi hahi’i, hanai ita nian loron Restaurasaun Independensia.

For me, this is a very special and beautiful day for Timorese, it is a way of strengthening our unity. I want only to say that I am very happy with the attendance of everybody in this place to honour our day of restoring independence.

Joaquim da Fonseca, the current ambassador of Timor-Leste in the UK, attended the event. At the opening ceremony, Fonseca and Marques called on youths to always remember the values of the celebrated date.

Ambassador Joaquim da Fonseca speaks with Dália Kiakilir, the author of this story. Photo by Arlindo Fernandes, used with permission.

In an interview, Fonseca highlighted:

Iha ita nia istoria iha loron barak ma’ak marcante, importante, maibe dia 20 de maio ita hili hanesan loron ida, de facto, ohin, ita restaura ita nia independensia. Entaun, tinan-tinan, ita komemora no hanoin katak 20 de Maio relembra buat hotu-hotu nebe’e akontese durante tinan barak, desde estranjeiru sira tama iha ita nia rain, hanesan seculos barak portugues sira iha timor, iha indonesia nia tempu to’o ita ukun-a’an. Komesa husi buat sira nebe’e halo ema triste, halo ema haksolok, sakrifisiu, esforsu, avansu, retrosesu, ne’e ma’ak ita hanoin, entaun, ohin ita halo reflexaun oinsa Timor ne’e konsegue rekonquista nia liberdade?

The history of Timor-Leste has many important dates, but the day of 20 May, [for] us, the Timorese, we mark out as a day, in fact, today, [in which] we restored our independence. So, annually, we commemorate and reflect that the 20 May recalls everything that happened, since the entry of foreigners in our country, for example, centuries of imperialism by the Portuguese in Timor, the invasion of Indonesia until independence. Happiness, sadness, sacrifices, struggles, advances, setbacks. That’s how we think, then, today we reflect on how Timor managed to regain freedom.

Cultural Group Wehali, from Northford. Photo by Ike de Castro, used with permission

Several British cities joined the football tournament 20 May Cup IV, among them: FC Académica, FC Tazlekar, FC Timor Peterborough, FC Cultura Peterborough, FC Unidus A Yarmouth, FC Unidus B Yarmouth, FC Santa Cruz, FC Timorese, AC Mayluan, AS Makara, FC Souro, FC Fortuna, FC Brigwater, FC Ox-Til and two teams from Northern Ireland, namely FC Foin Sae Timor and FC Assuwain NI.

The winning team FC FoinSa'e, group 8. Photo by Ike de Castro, used with permission.

The Northern Irish team, FC Foin Sa’e Timor (in English, “Timorese Youth Football Club”) won the championship for the third time consecutively. The coach Hélio Alin said:

Ami mai iha ne'e hodi defende ami nia titulo no lori piala ba ami nia uma dala ida tan.

We are here to defend our title and to take home the cup once again.

Alin was awarded the title of best coach for this tournament.

The event then continued with a show of dance by the performance group Wehali from the city of Northford, and finished with the dancefloor opening to everybody present.

by Liam Anderson at May 23, 2019 09:38 PM

Kenyan writer, Binyavanga Wainaina, who taught the world ‘how to write about Africa,’ dies at 48

Creative genius. Slayer of convention. A son of the soil. An exceptional mind.

Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina at the Brooklyn Book Fest, 2009. Wainaina, 48, passed away on Tuesday, May 22, in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo via Nightscream, CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

It’s been a little over 24 hours since Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina left this world, but his presence and impact continues to reverberate around the globe.

The outspoken, openly gay writer rebuked convention and challenged the status quo, triggering a literary revolution that would open the door to thousands of aspiring writers ready to change the narratives in and about Africa.

The writer, educator and LGBTQ activist, Binyavanga Wainaina, 48, passed on Tuesday, May 22, in Nairobi, Kenya, after a brief illness.

Within minutes, Wainaina’s friends, followers and admirers flooded social media to swap tributes and memories while arguing which of his prolific writings had the most influence.

Wainaina is best known for his provocative essay, “How to Write About Africa,” published in Granta magazine in 2006. He's also known for his 2012 memoir, “One Day I Will Write About This Place,” and the essay, “I am a homosexual, mum,” published simultaneously in Chimurenga and Africa is a Country in 2014. The essay caused a powerful stir on Twitter as people tried to parse fact from fiction, and subsequently, Time magazine named Wainaina one of the top 100 most influential people in the world.

In “How to Write About Africa,” Wainaina called out Western media and the aid industry — both particularly present in Nairobi — for perpetuating negative stereotypes about the continent of Africa, through scathing satire.

Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.

“His sarcasm was dripping — a stellar scalpel,” writes Nigerian writer Nwachukwu Egbunike.

Widely cited by academics, non-governmental organizations and aid workers, the essay —  also published as a small booklet — has had a profound impact on perceptions of Africa and continues to circulate, surprise and provoke.

On its impact, journalist Pernille Bærendtsen writes:

For me, this essay has followed me since I received it as a gift in 2008 by a Kenyan friend. I clearly belonged to the group of people Binyavanga addressed: A development worker employed by a Danish NGO in Tanzania writing about its ‘impact.’ This was at a point when the development and aid industry sharpened its rhetoric in favor of fundraising at the cost of unfolding the contrasting diversity on the ground. I had plenty of reason to feel embarrassed, but I also had time to plan how to change.

Binyavanga later explained in the journal Bidoun how this essay randomly came to life with double-effect: By exposing and describing the insecurity of “novelists, NGO workers, rock musicians, conservationists, students, and travel writers,” who read these “guidelines” on how — or maybe rather how not to — write about Africa, they then began to ask for his approval.

Wainaina, a son of a Kenyan father and Ugandan mother, continued to challenge stereotypes about Africa with his groundbreaking 2012 memoir, “One Day I Will Write About This Place.” Through rich, searing detail, he transported readers from his childhood in the ‘70s in Kenya to his student days in South Africa, where he spent many years in exile.

Critics hailed the book as raw and honest, but Wainaina later admitted that he’d left out an important chapter — his love life.

With “I am a homosexual, mum,” Wainaina became the first high-profile Kenyan to come out as openly gay on social media, triggering an avalanche of social opinion. Considered “the lost chapter” from his memoir, Wainaina imagines coming out as gay to his dying mother. His essay was timely as a wave of anti-gay crusades and legislation were being proposed in Uganda and later Tanzania, where homosexual acts remain criminalized.

However, unlike other writers who went into exile, Wainaina returned home, and as Nanjala Nyabola points out for BBC on Twitter, “that was major”:

‘We must free our imaginations’

While Binyavanga ironically attracted admiration from the diverse international crowd he criticized, at home he felt the pressure of not fitting the set frames. Binyavanga demanded free space and imagination. Courageously — within a growing community supportive of LGBTQ — he insisted on bending those frames.

In response to all the noise and pushback, that same year Wainaina produced “We Must Free Our Imaginations,” a six-part Youtube series detailing his ideas on freedom and the imagination. “I want to live a life of a free imagination,” he declared in Part 1.

I want this generation of young parents to have their kids see Africans writing their own stories — that simple act is the most political act one can have. I want to see a continent where every kind of person’s imagination does not have to look for … being allowed. I am a Pan-Africanist, I want to see this continent change.

Wainaina often channeled his desire for change through his literary activism education and leadership. In 2002, after winning the prestigious Caine Prize for his essay, “Discovering Home,” he used the award money to co-found Kwani? a literary magazine promoting new voices and new ideas emerging from across the continent.

Kwani? evolved over time into a publishing house and literary network that connected emerging and established writers from Lagos to Nairobi, Mogadishu to Accra.

While he unapologetically shook Kenyan social convention — coming out as gay, and later revealing his HIV+ status on Twitter on World AIDS Day in 2016 — it often came with backlash, struggle and pain.

Wainaina was a controversial person who struggled with depression and often wrestled with his complicated role as a public figure. He had his fans but he also faced critics like prominent Kenyan writer Shailja Patel, who accused Wainaina of “toxic lesbophobia.”

Twitter user Néo Músangi grapples with the fallibility of Wainaina's character in this tweet:

Writer Bwesigye Mwsigire, director of the Writivism Festival in Uganda, also addressed these contradictions in a Facebook tribute:

His style was a transgression. Beautiful and freeing transgression. … [T]he people we obsess over because of their work and ideas are people after all. They are human. Are we ever ready to love them in their complexity?

By now, a lot has been said about him. There's no need to repeat what has been said. Reminders of harm that he supported have been sounded. … This doesn't take away the pain one feels about his death.

There is only one Binyavanga Wainaina. He is an ancestor now. Let us celebrate his life.

A ‘creative genius’

A queer icon, Binya — as he is fondly called —  often received torrents of vitriolic anti-gay rhetoric that only spiked online as the news of his death spread across various channels.

Kenyan activist Boniface Mwangi wrote on Twitter that after writing a Facebook tribute to Wainaina, hateful, homophobic comments derailed his message:  Wainaina was a creative genius who must be remembered:

Ugandan feminist and writer Rosebell Kagumire distills the lessons she learned from Wainaina’s courage to speak out:

Through his life and letters, he gave himself and countless others the permission to imagine life as it could be otherwise, and his passing inspired poetic musings about the future of African imaginations and letters:

Kenyan writer Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, author of “Dust,” and literary friend to Wainaina, calls out with a final lament:

“Who told you could leave? Sneak out of your body at night without leaving a new address?”

Now that he's among the stars, you can join “Planet Binya” with a full archive of his work.

by Amanda Lichtenstein at May 23, 2019 06:16 PM

Inflatable Tank Man sculpture appears in Taiwan ahead of Tiananmen Massacre anniversary

Photo taken by Filip Noubel. Used with permission.

The following post is originally written by Tom Grundy on Hong Kong Free Press in May 22, 2019. It is republished on Global Voices under a content partnership agreement.

A giant inflatable “Tank Man” sculpture has appeared in the Taiwanese capital, almost 30 years after the Tiananmen Massacre.

Situated outside the landmark Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, the balloons were installed by a local artist named Shake. She told Reuters that she hoped China would become democratic one day:

So I think it is important to the Taiwanese people to continue discussing this topic – preventing people from forgetting this event and reminding the Taiwanese people that the regime in China is dangerous… This thing has already been washed away by [China’s] authoritarian political view.

Photo taken by Filip Noubel. Used with permission.

The appearance of the inflatable sculpture coincided with the 2019 June 4 International Symposium, which was held over the weekend alongside a series of commemorative events in Taiwan. A candlelight vigil, lectures, and seminars will also be held to mark the 30th anniversary.

Free speech is protected in democratic Taiwan, though Beijing considers the island to be part of its territory.

In 2016, the artist and cartoonist Badiucao conducted a performance in Adelaide, Australia to pay tribute to “Tank Man.” He later launched a campaign to encourage other people around the world to pose as the lone protester.

The Tank Man performance in Adelaide in 2016. Photo: Badiucao.

by Hong Kong Free Press at May 23, 2019 03:51 PM

Taiwan's same-sex marriage bill is a half-victory for rainbow families

LGBT families were present as Taiwan's legislature enshrined same-sex marriage on May 17th. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission

Taiwan made history on May 17 as its legislature voted on the implementation of same-sex marriage, thus becoming the first country in Asia to do so. Yet the new law only extends limited adoption rights to same-sex couples.

The May 17 vote on same-sex marriage included a particular point on adoption which is granted as a right but only if the adopted child is biologically related to one of the parents. This means that not all children growing up in same-sex households will benefit from full legal parental protection on both sides.

Rainbow families are slowly emerging from the underground and becoming more diverse

The term LGBTQIA+ is an umbrella concept that brings together a number of groups with different identities and interests, and with varying visibility within the larger queer community. One such group is often called rainbow families and refers to same-sex couples who have, or plan to have and raise children together. In many countries, opposition to same-sex marriage laws largely originates in religious views on marriage, claiming that a child needs a mother and a father to be raised.

Regardless of existing laws, religious practice, or mainstream social mores, rainbow families exist in a number of ways across the globe. Figures are difficult to obtain given the lack of legal protection in most cases, and the desire to be protected from homophobia. But for example in the UK, there are over 10,000 such families, and in the US the figure is over 200,000.

Global Voices interviewed Cindy Su, the CEO for the Lobby Alliance for LGBT rights in Taiwan, who says that in Taiwan:

We have a community of gay families, I myself have two kids, and we know a few hundred such families.

While initially, almost all same-sex parents were women, a new group of gay dads is emerging.

Andrew (who asked to use a pseudonym), is from Taiwan, identifies as gay, and is currently in the process of having a child with his husband via a surrogacy. He recently joined the Taiwan LGBT Family Rights Advocacy (台灣同志家庭權益促進會), which was established in 2005, and operates as a support group for current and future same-sex parents. He explains why gay men are increasingly considering parenthood:

Globalization makes the international surrogacy process easier day by day. Some US-based agencies are developing ad campaigns targeting international potential LGBT parents. In Taiwan they even offer packages in Chinese. Besides, there is still a strong and undeniable expectation from within the Chinese culture, and from society to have children, especially for men.

In Taiwan, as in other countries, there are three main ways for same-sex couples to have children: custody of biological children from a previous heterosexual relationship, in vitro fertilization (IVF), and increasingly, surrogacyUntil 2015, most surrogate mothers came from Southeast Asia, but a number of countries in that region have since banned the practice.

Despite encouraging signs of the growing tolerance of queer parenting, every step on the road towards full acceptance requires courage, and not all are ready to come out publicly.

According to Cindy Su:

A majority of Taiwanese don’t know that LGBT families exist, but when they see us on the street, when we introduce our family structure, most people are accepting. They see us as real people and understand that we want to give our kids the best.

Andrew believes some men still shy away from public recognition:

The real question is whether men start their own families while being out or while remaining in the closet. Paradoxically in some cases, men become dads without coming out, or without being in a couple.

He himself asks to remain anonymous because of his overall low online profile, while he has come out at work, to his family and friends. He explains that:

Every LGBT household faces different levels of risk of being out, and has different concerns for being more visible in society today. This can be related to a partial coming-out, or a familial acceptance depending on a tacit agreement of discreteness.

Legal battle not over for rainbow families

In 2000, 11-year-old Yeh Yung-Chih was killed inside his own school, likely by other students who used to bully him. The commotion over his brutal death led to the creation of the Gender Equity Education Act (性別平等敎育法) four years later, which over the years extended its provisions to include education on LGBTQIA+ identity and rights, and gender-inclusive sex education.

The video below tells the story of Yeh Yung-Chih:

In November 2018, a referendum asked Taiwanese citizens their opinions about ten issues, one of them being the implementation of the homosexual aspect of Gender Equality Education Act in elementary and middle schools. Two-thirds of the voters voted against.

I asked both Cindy, who has children, and Andrew, who is expecting one, about their concerns for a child with two same-sex parents growing up in a society where heterosexual families remain the norm.

For Cindy, the situation will require a long fight:

At school, the curriculum has introduced different sexualities and gender identities without emphasizing rainbow families. Besides, the opposition wants to remove this kind of education from schools. We are very concerned  and know this is a challenge we will have to face.

Andrew believes strong support outside of school can protect their future child:

We do realize our child is going to grow as a “minority”. Therefore we will do our utmost to be fully open about his origins, our homosexuality, and the impact it can have on his life. Our close circle is totally supportive and made of people with different outlooks on society. This will create a bubble for the kid, and allow him to question and refute comments he could face outside

Regarding same-sex sex education in schools, I also talked to Jay Lin, a founding member of the Taiwan Marriage Equality Coalition and father of two 3-year-old children. He agrees more efforts are needed:

The results of the referendum deny children same sex education in elementary and secondary school. There is no constitutional protection for this kind of education, so we will need to lobby and communicate more with the general population, including many concerned and misinformed parents, on why this type of education is necessary. We can also do this on a micro level by talking to parents and teachers and by persuading the rest of the population that this is good for all children to be more aware about themselves and their peers.

by Filip Noubel at May 23, 2019 03:09 PM

“If big tech companies won’t solve the problem for us. We can do it ourselves.”

How Nigerians are building a Do-It-Yourself approach to inclusion in language technology

Photo by Kevin Harber and used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

Editor's note: The following essay was written as part of a social media campaign promoting linguistic diversity online co-organized by Rising Voices. This essay was constructed from a series of tweets compiled using the Thread Reader app and organized and edited for publication.

I often speak about my grandfather (now about 92) who can read and write in Yorùbá but not in English. He lived a successful life as a goldsmith, and lived in many parts of Nigeria.

I think of him often when I think of the issues of inclusion in today’s language technology. There are many times I go to his house and I have to help him operate his mobile phone, retrieve old messages, or respond to some phone commands.

In his house and in my father’s office, in the early nineties, is where I first saw rotary phones — so the problem isn’t that he hasn’t seen phones before, or used them to communicate. But mobile phones and their technical features pose new problems.

As with most people who have the privilege of being savvy in both web knowledge and English language, it’s easy for me to dismiss all adult consternation with new technology. “Why can’t they just figure it out?” But stepping back a bit, one sees the problem—and the opportunities.

Tools like text-to-speech and speech recognition were created to solve problems like this: empower people to use their devices in as much an intuitive way as possible, using human-natural actions like speaking and listening. But what if the user does not speak/understand English? It’s not a question that many technology companies focusing on Africa have enjoyed confronting, perhaps also because there are many loud middle-class voices telling them that ‘we all speak English anyway. Why bother?’

My impression is that in spite of decades of the use of English as the medium of instruction, the harsh reality is that millions still do not speak English or not with the competence required to use most modern technological tools.

I recounted an incident once, at an ATM in the city of Lekki, where a young man of around 30 didn’t understand what the machine meant by not being able to dispense money “to the multiples of 500″ or so.

He would have been easily better served in Igbo.

But today, there’s no ATM you can use successfully in a Nigerian language. And none you can use by speaking to it, though this latter might not be a Nigerian problem alone. Still, we can expect that big tech companies won’t solve the problem for us. We can do it ourselves.

Imagine if you could use your phone/ATM/etc in a Nigerian language. My grandfather and millions more would be empowered to participate in modern life. Think about the possibilities for financial inclusion. Who would put their money in a bank if they can’t get it out easily?

There are tools for disabled people that can benefit from local language infusion. A phone that can read your text to you can benefit a blind person who speaks no English. etc. In short, plenty of opportunities. Most local startups aren’t convinced of the profitability of these ventures, hence the absence of many organisations trying to solve the problems. Don’t ask me why the government isn’t sponsoring research in these directions. I don’t know either.

So, we do what we can, when we can.

by Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún at May 23, 2019 09:34 AM

India's Lok Sabha 2019: Results of a weeks-long election process

Photo Credits: Pallavi Bhadkamkar. Used with permission.

The Lok Sabha 2019 election (Indian general election) was nothing less than that of a typical political soap opera — complete with name-calling and an eventual hashtag batter between parties. As this weeks-long voting period draws to a close today, voters wait with bated breath for the results.

Three political parties came together to try and get into a coalition before the elections. This was called the ‘Gathbandhan’ (Alliance) that was comprised of Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal and Bahujan Samaj Dal. These parties are local parties of Uttar Pradesh, a state that has been crucial for the current prime minister's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to win in order to gain a majority in the Lok Sabha in 2019. The opposition called for a meeting in order to discuss the possible outcomes of the election.

Aside from the voting itself, the most important part of this election was the use of social media in election campaigns. Hashtags played a crucial part — according to searches tracked on Google, the hashtags for BJP started off to be more popular than that for the Congress Party. However, the two parties mostly played with the hashtags “Main Bhi Chowkidaar” (Even I am a guard), “Chowkidaar Chor Hai” (The guard is, in fact, the thief) and “Phir Ek Baar Modi Sarkar” (Modi government once again).

&&

As the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections draw to a close on 23 May, the political parties have started to ready themselves up for the possible outcomes of the elections. The Lok Sabha needs a majority for a political party to have its candidate in the Prime Minister seat.

According to the exit polls, Narendra Modi is expected to win a landslide of the votes, gaining a majority of seats in the Lok Sabha. Out of the total 542 seats in the Lok Sabha, many news outlets reported that the BJP is projected to win a majority of seats — enough for the BJP to have Narendra Modi as Prime Minister without any backing from other parties or coalition. With the impending election results, people have taken to Twitter to vent out their anticipation. Many have taken the exit poll results to be completely reflective of the actual results and have started congratulating Narendra Modi for his win.

Various news channels and websites have arranged for live update and analyses of the Election results through the course of the 23 of May 2019.

by Devika Sakhadeo at May 23, 2019 06:54 AM

Rising Voices
Meet Ian McCallum, the host of the @NativeLangsTech Twitter account for May 23-29

Photo provided by Ian McCallum.

In 2019 as part of a social media campaign to celebrate linguistic diversity online, Native American and First Nations language activists and advocates will be taking turns managing the @NativeLangsTech Twitter account to share their experiences with the revitalization and promotion of Native American and First Nations languages. This profile post is about Ian McCallum (@IanMcCallum3) and what he plans to discuss during his week as host.

Rising Voices: Please tell us about yourself.

My name is Ian McCallum. I am a band member of the Munsee-Delaware Nation in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. I am a second language learner of the Lunaape (Munsee or Delaware) language. I have been learning the language for 25 years. I enjoy running, working on old cars and historical research. I work as an educator in the province of Ontario.

RV: What is the current status of your language on the internet and offline?

The Lunaape language has been well documented. Between the two Lunaape communities in Ontario (Munsee-Delaware and Moraviantown) there is a comprehensive dictionary as well as many books written for use in schools and evening classes. Examples of the books can be found http://www.munsee.ca/language-resources/ The Lunaape language (Ontario) is endangered with fewer than 5 first language speakers and less than 100 second language learners who understand the language at various levels. There are revitalization programs established in both communities and the language is taught in daycare programs as well as local elementary schools.

RV: On what topics do you plan to focus during the week that you’ll manage the @NativeLangsTech Twitter account?

I would like to highlight the efforts to revitalize the Lunaape language on Munsee Delaware Nation, community classes, school classes, weekend language sessions, social media use (facebook and twitter).

RV: What are the main motivations for your digital activism for your language? What are your hopes and dreams for your language?

The main motivations for my digital activism is to provide the Lunaape language to band members who live off reserve. I would like to bring awareness of the Lunaape language, its continued use. My hopes and dreams for the Lunaape language are to help more second language learners become fluent and create more spaces where the language lives.

by Rising Voices at May 23, 2019 01:36 AM

May 21, 2019

Rising Voices
Meet Denver Toroxa Breda, the host of the @DigiAfricanLang Twitter account for May 22–28

Photo provided by Denver Toroxa Breda.

In 2019 as part of a social media campaign to celebrate linguistic diversity online, African language activists and advocates will be taking turns managing the @DigiAfricanLang Twitter account to share their experiences with the revitalization and promotion of African languages. This profile post is about Denver Toroxa Breda. (@ToroxaD) and what he plans to discuss during his week as host.

Rising Voices: Please tell us about yourself.

Khoe languages and cultural Kuwiri or activist, writer advocating for the officialisation of Khoekhoe and N|uu, two of SA's First languages.

RV: What is the current status of your language on the internet and offline?

Khoekhoe is spoken in Namibia, studied at schools, and yet in SA where it originated, only 2000 speak the language, it's not official, it's not in school. N|uu has one fluent speaker, not official and at schools, it's a critically endangered language.

RV: On what topics do you plan to focus during the week that you’ll manage the @DigiAfricanLang Twitter account?

Language recognition, language revival language loss, teaching some language and interesting words.

RV: What are the main motivations for your digital activism for your language? What are your hopes and dreams for your language?

That our languages don't die, that it's taught at school's, universities, spoken by everyone in Africa.

by Rising Voices at May 21, 2019 06:45 PM

Global Voices
Love wins: same-sex marriage law fully endorsed by Taiwan’s legislature

Over 30,000 people await the final decision on marriage equality in front of Taiwan's legislative body. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission

May 17 marks the International Day Against Homophobia, also known as IDAHO. This date took on a historical significance in Taiwan as its legislature voted to allow same-sex marriage. This decision has turned the island into the first country in Asia to recognize marriage equality for all its citizens.

A three-hour suspenseful wait under heavy rain

For the LGBTQI+ community, May 17 was a crucial date. Elated by a 2017 ruling of the Constitutional Court recognizing the eligibility of same-sex marriage, only to be stunned by the results of a November 2018 referendum that refused a change of the Civil Code to actually implement marriage equality, the LGBTQI+ community decided to rally en masse in the early hours of May 17 in front of the Legislative Yuan in central Taipei. Despite pouring and almost non-stop rain, a crowd of over 30,000 people monitored the voting process of the legislators that was being transmitted live via large screens.

Jennifer Lu, one of the most outspoken speakers for LGBTQI+ rights in Taiwan. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission.

The community was represented in all its diversity and various groups. One of the first speakers was Jennifer Lu, a representative of the minority Social Democratic Party (SDP) and chief coordinator of Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan. In her opening remarks, she reiterated that the community had been asking for equal rights and that nothing short of marriage could be accepted at this point. 

Chi Chia Wen with pro-LGBTQI+ religious leaders on stage. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission.

Also very much present in the large crowd was Chi Chia Wei, known for coming out on national television in the 1980s, and considered a veteran of the LGBTQI+ movement. Waving his large rainbow flag, he was anxiously waiting for the final results of the vote.   

While the main opposition to same-sex marriage comes from certain Christian groups, a number of priests and a female pastor were present on the stage to express their support to marriage equality, saying that “Jesus does not distinguish between heterosexual and homosexual believers”. 

A number of members of the LGBTQI+ community from regions and countries where their rights are not acknowledged or poorly protected also joined the event, as they can rarely or never demonstrate in public. 

Malaysian and Hong Kong flags present in the march as some activists request recognition of trans-national same-sex marriage. Photo by Filip Noubel, used with permission

Emotions reached their height around 1:15 PM as legislators voted on article 4 of the bill which is regarded as essential because it enshrines the term ‘marriage registration’ in the bill. Scenes of tears, hugging and dancing in the rain followed the announcement of legislative support.

End of a two-year legal limbo

The issue of same-sex marriage started to become a central point of Taiwanese politics in May 2017 when the Constitutional Court ruled that there were no obstacles in the Constitution barring same-sex couples to marry. It also gave a two-year period to the Legislative Yuan, the equivalent of the Taiwanese parliament, to amend existing laws to allow marriage equality regardless of the gender of the two persons getting married.

In Taiwan, marriage is ruled by the Civil Code. After the Constitutional Court interpretation, referred to popularly by its number 748, was met with strong opposition by a number of political and religious groups, the government held a referendum in November 2018 to ask whether Taiwanese citizens would support a reform of the Civil Code to allow same-sex marriage. The referendum, which also covered other issues, rejected any change to the Civil Code by nearly two-thirds.

Following this, the government announced on 21 February 2019 that its ruling, based on interpretation 748, would still require implementation outside the Civil Code, since the decision of the Constitutional Court prevails over the referendum. It thus drafted a bill, requiring the Legislative Yuan to review it to meet the May 24 deadline. The main opposition party, the Kuomintang, which has ruled Taiwan’s political life for most of its period since 1949, also drafted its own version of the bill that would offer same-sex union, but would shy away form the term marriage, among other differences.

The issue rapidly turned into a test for president Tsai Ing-wen, who represents the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) that lost the local elections of November 2018, after which Tsai resigned at DPP leader. 

This thus comes as a double victory both for the DPP, which openly supported the bill, and for the LGBTQI+ community that is now in celebration mood. With the bill now passed, hundreds of same-sex couples are now preparing to wed on May 24 across the island. In Taipei, over 150 couples have already registered to mark what some have been waiting decades for. A traditional wedding banquet is also organized on May 25th outside the Presidential Office to gain visibility and mark a historical change in Taiwanese society.

by Filip Noubel at May 21, 2019 04:39 AM

May 20, 2019

Global Voices
The beauty of Afro-Peruvian women through Ayleen Díaz's illustrations

A Peruvian illustrator on self-love and the celebration of difference.

Peruvian illustrator Ayleen Díaz in front of one of her murals. Photo by Afroféminas, used with permission.

This interview was conducted by Diana Sierra and originally appeared on the website of Afroféminas. A slightly edited version is published below as part of a content partnership with Global Voices.

Ayleen Díaz is an architect and freelance illustrator from Peru. Through her work, she wants women of African descent to feel not only represented but also proud of their natural beauty.

Her art draws from her personal experiences of struggling to fit in mainstream beauty standards, which in Peruvian culture means Caucasian features. Her illustrations revolve around femininity, self-love, and the celebration of difference.

Ayleen has been drawing since she was very young, but she only turned that into a career that after a friend was captivated by her portraits, which she'd do whenever she was bored at work. She began using social media to show off her drawings and selling them.

Diana Sierra: What inspires you to draw?

Ayleen Díaz: Empecé dibujando cabello rizado porque yo me alisaba el cabello con productos y plancha todos los días durante ocho años. Recuperar mi cabello me ha costado un montón de tiempo, de dedicación, de amor. Aparte, desde que empecé a dejarme mi cabello natural empecé todo este proceso de reconocimiento personal y de amor propio. Creo que eso es lo que trato de reflejar. A muchas mujeres afrodescendientes nos cuesta abrazarnos con todas nuestras virtudes y defectos. Este camino es largo y tedioso y a veces la gente no ayuda, te crítica y te pone las cosas difíciles. Pero creo que al final lo puedes conseguir y llegas a un equilibrio en el que te puedes aceptar y amar tal como eres. A mi me pasó eso con mi cabello, siento que desde que empecé a aceptar mi cabello rizado y esponjoso cambió todo.

Ayleen Díaz: I started by drawing curly hair because I used to straighten mine with products and flat irons every day for eight years. Recovering the natural shape of my hair has taken time, dedication, and love. That is how I've started this process of personal recognition and self-love, and I think that's what I try to reflect on. For many Afro-descendant women, it is difficult to embrace all of our virtues and shortcomings. The journey is long and tedious, and people don't always help, they criticize and make things harder. But I believe in the end you can make it, you can finally find a balance in which you're able to love and accept yourself the way you are. That is what happened to me. I feel that when I started to accept my curls and fluffy hair everything changed. 

Illustration by Ayleen Díaz, used with permission.

DS: Do you feel that Peru lacks a high representation of the Afro-descendant population?

AD: En Perú no existe mucha representación. De hecho, la mayoría de personas que aparecen en la publicidad o en la televisión siempre siguen un mismo patrón con la tez clara y el cabello liso. Es cierto que desde hace unos años esto está cambiando, pero acá era complicado hasta conseguir productos para el cabello. Si querías un champú específico tenías que traerlo de fuera. Ahora ya hay muchas marcas y muchas personas que te enseñan a cuidarte tu cabello con productos naturales. También muchas activistas afroperuanas que están luchando contra el racismo y contra los prejuicios, que te enseñan a aceptarte tal como eres.

AM: In Peru, there isn't much representation. Indeed, most people who appear in advertising or television always follow the same standards with a light complexion and straight hair. It's true that in the past few years this has been changing. However, for a while it was complicated even to find hair products. If you wanted a specific shampoo you had to bring it from abroad. There are many more brands available to the public now, and there are people who teach you how to take care of your hair with natural products. There are also many Afro-Peruvian activists fighting racism and prejudice, people who teach you to love and accept yourself.

An ilustración by Ayleen Díaz, used with permission.

DS: In your illustrations, you also show bodies of women with stretch marks and who are not thin…

AD: Sí, lo de las estrías empezó porque vi una foto de una chica en una pose echada y con sus estrías. Me dije “guau se ve increíble”. Yo escondía mis estrías, pero ahora es como que me gustan, me dan un encanto diferente. Mientras más las enseñemos la gente las va a aceptar más. Es algo normal que te sale en el cuerpo por muchas razones y no te lo puedes quitar. Hay que abrazarlo y aceptarlo y decir “esto es lo que tengo”.

AM: Yes, the stretch marks thing started because I saw a picture of a girl posing, lying down and with all her stretch marks. I was like “wow, she looks incredible”. I used to hide my stretch marks, but now I even like them, they give me a different kind of charm. The more we show them, the more people will accept them. It is something normal that happens to your body for many reasons and you can't get rid of them. We have to embrace and accept it and say “this is what I have”. 

DS: In your Instagram stories, you tend to talk about self-acceptance…

Sí. Un día mostré en mi historia una foto de mis estrías así, en primer plano, y comencé a hablarles a las chicas que me siguen para que ellas también compartieran las cosas que les cuesta aceptar o que ya aceptaron y de las que se sienten orgullosas.

Además, fue justo en internet que encontré la frase “nos esforzamos en encajar cuando podemos sobresalir”, que me pareció perfecta para saber de lo que estaba hablando. La publiqué y un montón de gente la compartió. Me pareció muy lindo que se identifiquen con esto. Yo también he pasado por momentos en los que no me gustaba mi cuerpo. Me gusta que se den cuenta de que no están solas, de que todo el mundo pasa por problemas como estos. Todos hemos pasado por ese momento en el que queremos cambiarnos algo.

Tú con tu cuerpo y con todas tus curvas, con todas tus líneas, con todas tus formas, colores, eres igual de linda. No hay por qué estandarizar la belleza. En realidad hay millones de tipos de belleza y depende de cómo tú lo veas. Puedes marcar tu propia belleza. Cuando dibujo distintos tipos de cuerpo y distintas formas de cabello busco que la gente aprenda que todo es bonito.

AM: Yes. One day I showed in my Insta-story a close-up picture of my stretch marks and asked my followers to share the things they found hard to accept, or that they have already accepted, and are proud of. Actually, it was online that I found the phrase “we strive to fit in when we can stand out”. It was perfect to understand what I was talking about. I posted it and people began sharing it. I thought it was amazing that they identified with it. I've also had moments where I did not like my body. I want them to realize that they are not alone, that everyone goes through problems. Everyone at some point wants to change something about themselves.

You are just as beautiful with all your curves, with all your shapes and colors. There is no need to standardize beauty. In reality, beauty comes in a million different ways, it all depends on how you see things. You can highlight your own beauty. By drawing different body types and different hair textures, I want people to learn how everything is beautiful. 

View this post on Instagram

Pintar y vivir ✨ • Me encanta pintar pero por mi chamba de arquitecta 👷🏾‍♀️ y la practicidad del ipad no lo he hecho hace varias lunas, lo bueno es que ayer que volví a pintar, me he re encontrado con el amor y ahora tengo dos lienzos más para darles color 🔥 • Sobre mi experiencia de ayer, es la segunda vez que pinto en vivo y la verdad no es tan fácil pero siempre siempre termina siendo super gratificante 💛 • Pdt. No se olviden de visitar la expo #MARZ8 organizada por @artdictos en @amaru.cc 🌻 • • • • #ayleenmayte #leafillustration #ilustradoras #canvaspainting #canvasart #ilustradoraperuana #illustragram #artistofinstagram #patternlover #printandpattern #curlylover #ilustracionbotanica #colorpalette #handpainted

A post shared by Ayleen Mayte (@ayleen.mayte) on

To paint and to live. I love to paint, but because of my job as an architect and the convenience of using the iPad I haven't done it for many moons now. The good thing is that yesterday I started to paint again. I've found that kind of love again and now I have to more canvases that I can give color to. About my experience yesterday, it's the second time I paint live and it's actually not very easy, but it always ends up being rewarding. Don't forget to visit the exhibition organized by @artdictos.

DS: Do you believe that the work of Afro-Peruvian activists is becoming visible in the country?

AD: Cambiar la sociedad y el pensamiento de tanta gente no es tan fácil. Cuesta un montón de tiempo y puede ser que a corto plazo no lo veamos, pero el cambio se va a dar progresivamente. Me encanta el trabajo de Natalia Barrera, de Una chica afroperuana, por ejemplo. Yo la sigo desde que comenzó hace mucho tiempo. El contenido que comparte es muy bueno y muy educativo.

AD: To change a whole society and the mindset of so many people is not an easy task. It's going to take a long time. We might not see it in the short term, but change is going to happen progressively. I love the work of youtuber Natalia Barrera, for example, and her channel “An Afro-Peruvian girl”. I have been following her since she began a long time ago. The content she shares is very good and very educational.

DS: Are there other illustrators that you admire?

AD: Sí, yo sigo a Carla Llanos que tiene un estilo muy lindo se parece al mío. También a Alja Horvat. Sus ilustraciones me parecen lindas, dibuja mujeres igual que yo, con cuerpos reales. Me encanta su estilo.

AM: Yes, I follow Carla Llanos she has a very nice style that resembles mine. Also, Alja Horvat. She draws women just like me with real bodies, her illustrations are beautiful and I love her style.

DS: You also paint murals, tell me some more about it.

AD: Pertenezco al Colectivo Papaya, somos cinco mujeres artistas, ilustradoras muralistas todas, con un estilo diferente pero con un mismo concepto: todas queremos realzar la belleza de las mujeres y, sobre todo, que se estas mujeres se sientan identificadas, valoradas y que se acepten bellas tal como son. Nos hemos hecho muy buenas amigas dentro del colectivo, lo pasamos bien y nos encanta juntarnos para pintar y poder llevar nuestro mensaje. También hacemos trabajos de obra social junto con una ONG que lleva artistas que quieran pintar las paredes en colegios de bajos recursos.

AM: I belong to the “Colectivo Papaya” (Papaya Collective). We are five women artists. All of us mural illustrators with different styles, but with a similar concept: we all want to highlight women's beauty, and most importantly, we want women to identify in these images, to feel valued, and to accept their beauty just as it is. It's a group of five artists that have become very good friends, who have a good time and love to get together to paint and be able to carry out our message. We also do charitable work together with an NGO that takes artists who wish to paint the walls in low-income schools.

Yesterday, on our first day of work with our first mural as a collective. We finished it today, you can find it at Caminos del Inca 3200 (in the country's capital, Lima). If you visit the mural, take some pics for us. Thank you to the life's wonderful chances to make me meet this wonderful women.

by Daniela Cristain at May 20, 2019 09:34 PM

Angola cancelled a public tender after suspicions of fraud, indicating divisions in government

Front page of newspaper Jornal de Angola on the tender won by the company Telstar. Taken by Dércio Tsandzana, 19 April 2019 and used with permission

The Angolan president João Lourenço cancelled, on 18 Abril, the public tender for the fourth mobile phone operator in the country, arguing that the winner Telstar did not meet the necessary requirements to deliver the service. The president’s decision could indicate divisions in the Angolan government.

The company Telstar was created in January 2018 with a capital stock of 200,000 Kwanza (around 600 US dollars), and its shareholders are the general Manuel João Carneiro (90 per cent) and the businessman António Cardoso Mateus (10 per cent), according to the Portuguese newspaper Observador. Manuel João Carneiro’s rank was awarded by the previous president José Eduardo dos Santos, according to the Angolan online news outlet Club Net.

The Observador reported that 27 companies participated in the tendering process opened by the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology, under José Carvalho da Rocha.

On 25 April, João Lourenço signed an order which establishes new rules for opening the new invitation to tender, according to the newspaper Jornal de Angola.

After the results of the first tender were made public, many Angolans questioned the integrity of the process. Some, for example, highlighted that winner Telstar did not even have a website. Skit Van Darken, an editor and event organizer, said on Facebook:

A Telstar – Telecomunicações, Lda, constituída a 26 de Janeiro de 2018, com capital de 200.000 Kwanzas…de acordo com o Diário da República, cujos accionistas são o general Manuel João Carneiro (90% do capital), na reforma, e António Cardoso Mateus (10%).

O accionista maioritário tem ligações à empresa Mundo Startel, uma sociedade de capitais anónimos, registada na INACOM, o regulador das telecomunicações, com licença de telefonia fixa, entretanto expirada. Uma empresa que nem se quer website tem!

EU NÃO ACREDITO SE QUER QUE EXISTIRAM OUTROS CONCORRENTES

ESSE PAÍS É UMA DESGRAÇA

Telstar – Telecommunications, Ltd, formed on 26 January 2018, with capital of 200,000 Kwanzas… according to the [newspaper] Diário da República, whose shareholders are the general Manuel João Carneiro (90 per cent of the capital), in retirement, and António Cardoso Mateus (10 per cent).

The majority shareholder has links to the company Mundo Startel, a limited liability company, registered at INACOM, the telecommunications regulator, with a landline licence, although expired. A company that doesn’t even have a website!

I DON’T EVEN BELIEVE THAT THERE WERE OTHER COMPETITORS

THIS COUNTRY IS A DISGRACE

Meanwhile, Joaquim Lunda, a journalist and frequent social media commentator, praised the president’s action and even thought that the minister in question ran the risk of being fired for these failings:

Agradeço e é de louvar a decisão tomada pelo Presidente da República, João Lourenço em anular o concurso público que atribuiu à empresa angolana Telstar a licença para a quarta operadora de telecomunicações em Angola. Havia muitas reticências e muitos pontos por esclarecer no assunto. Não se reconhece idoneidade numa empresa que foi criada em 2018 c/ capital social de 200 mil kwanzas em ser lhe atribuído a tal empreitada.
Tenho a plena certeza que os dias do Ministro das Telecomunicações e das Tecnologias de Informação, José Carvalho de Rocha, estão contados. Após o desaire que foi o ANGOSAT 1, agora mais este que testemunhamos hoje, duvido se o “Dread” vai resistir.
Apreciemos os Cenários…Nas Calmas!!”

I appreciate, and it is praiseworthy, the decision taken by the president of the republic, João Lourenço, to annul the public tender which awarded the Angolan company Telstar the licence for the fourth telecommunications operator in Angola. There were many reservations and a lot of points to clarify around the issue. One doesn’t see the aptitude in a company which was created in 2018 with capital stock of 200 thousand kwanzas to be awarded such an undertaking.
I am completely certain that the days of the Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technology, José Carvalho de Rocha, are numbered. After the failure of ANGOSAT 1, now also this that we witness today, I doubt if “Dread” will make it.
Let’s enjoy the show… calmly!!”

The president’s decision came after the same minister led the project, in 2017, for the satellite Angosat 1, also characterized by problems.

For Adriano Sapiñala, a deputy of Angola’s biggest opposition party, the case shows disorganization within the government:

JLo tem de andar a combinar bem com os seus auxiliares porque ontem o Ministro de tutela dizia que o tempo das reclamações tinha terminado e por isso a Telstar teria avançado com os passos subsequentes sendo ela vencedora do concurso fraudulento e hoje JLo vem e anula o concurso!! Vocês comunicam assim tão mal?

Agora ou o Ministro coloca o seu cargo à disposição (demitindo-de) ou então JLo tem de o exonerar porque se anulou o concurso é porque não correu bem e para não beliscar ninguém inocente, que se apurem responsabilidades!!

JLo [João Lourenço] has to organize his team well because yesterday the minister responsible was saying that the time for complaints had ended and so Telstar would have gone ahead with its next steps given that it was the winner of the fraudulent tender and today JLo comes and annuls the tender!! You communicate so badly?

Now either the minister makes his position available (resigning) or then JLo has to fire him because if he cancelled the tender it is because it did not go well and to not affect anybody innocent, they need to establish responsibility!!

by Liam Anderson at May 20, 2019 06:21 PM

Mozambican contestant won world bodybuilding competition in Hong Kong
Bruno Saraiva vence prémio de Hong Kong | foto cedida por Bruno (20.04.2019)

Bruno Saraiva won an award in Hong Kong | photo provided by Bruno (20.04.2019)

On 17 April, the Mozambican athlete Bruno Saraiva won an international bodybuilding competition in Hong Kong.

After beating five competitors, the athlete won first place in the category of classic bodybuilding (classic physique), the most popular and important category in the event, which seeks to find the athlete who best displays their musculature in various positions.

Bruno also won in the ‘overall’ category for the best athlete across all the sub-categories.

He participated in three categories in the Hong Kong Bodybuilding contest: men’s athletic physique, men’s fitness physique, men’s sports model. The contest is scheduled to be held next on 23 June.

In response to our request sent by Facebook chat about how the competition went, Saraiva highlighted that it was his first time at the contest, as well as the limited time he had for preparation:

Eu fui preparado pelo Castro Cazé em apenas poucos dias e lá fomos fazer as inscrições, e ele disse Bruno tu vais fazer a categoria que eu sempre quis que fizesses: a mais conhecida por Classic Physique e logo na minha primeira aparição ganhei na minha categoria e fui ganhar ainda o overall, como se fosse chamar todos os primeiros lugares da tua categoria.

I was trained by Castro Cazé in only a few days and then we went to do the registration, and he said Bruno you’re going to do the category that I always wanted you to do: the one best known as Classic Physique and soon in my first appearance I won in my category and I then also won the overall, as it is called for all the first places of your category

Followed by over 24 thousand people on his Instagram account, Bruno, who resides in the capital Maputo, is a figure of reference for bodybuilders in Mozambique.

According to the Wikipedia entry for bodybuilding:

Bodybuilding is the use of progressive resistance exercise to control and develop one's musculature for aesthetic purposes. An individual who engages in this activity is referred to as a bodybuilder. In competitive bodybuilding, bodybuilders appear in lineups and perform specified poses (and later individual posing routines) for a panel of judges who rank the competitors based on criteria such as symmetry, muscularity, and conditioning.

Saraiva expressed his happiness with winning the award in Hong Kong in an Instagram post:

Obrigado pela vitória senhor. É com muita alegria que tenho o prazer de anunciar e compartilhar com todos vocês a minha vitória na categoria Classic Physique e tendo vencido o overall na competição global clássica em Hong Kong.

Thank you for the victory, Lord. It is with much joy that I have the pleasure of announcing and sharing with you all my victory in the category Classic Physique and having won the overall in the global classic competition in Hong Kong

In another post, though, Bruno recounted the difficulties he went through before going to Hong Kong:

Por favor meu amigo/a leia esta mensagem com muito carinho, porque essa é a mais pura realidade, não tenho vergonha de dizer e sei que muitos vão se emocionar: quando estava pra vir a Hong Kong pra competir andei em vários sítios batendo as portas pedindo apoio, falei com varios amigos que alguns eu tinha a certeza que pudessem ajudar, e as respostas de alguns eram:

1. Bruno tu não vas conseguir ou seja não tens chances de ganhar e nem de ficar entre os melhores;
2. Outros diziam que não me podiam ajudar porque seria deitar fora o dinheiro;
3. Outros ate disseram Bruno você deve fumar muita maconha.

Please my friend read this message with a lot of kindness, because it is the purest reality, I have no shame in saying it and I know that many will overreact: when I was about to come to Hong Kong to compete I went around a lot of places knocking on doors asking for support, I spoke with various friends some of whom I was sure could help, and the answers from some were:

1. Bruno you're not going to make it or you don’t have any chance of winning nor of finishing among the best;
2. Others said that they couldn’t help me because it would be throwing away the money;
3. Others even said Bruno you must be smoking a lot of cannabis.

by Liam Anderson at May 20, 2019 06:05 PM

Western Balkan countries look at the past and the future at the Venice Biennale 2019

La Biennale di Venezia welcomes visitors from May 11-November 24, 2019.

Pavilion of North Macedonia, 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, May You Live In Interesting Times. Photo: La Biennale di Venezia, used with permission.

It is that time of the year: the setting is the Italian city of Venice and the subject is the art, in all of its forms.

The 2019 Venice Biennale, or the 58th International Art Exhibition, is titled “May You Live In Interesting Times”. The title is a phrase of English invention that has long been mistakenly cited as an ancient Chinese curse that invokes periods of uncertainty, crisis, and turmoil.

The Biennale features artists from 89 countries whose works are exhibited in the historical Pavilions at the Giardini, the Arsenale and in the historic city center of Venice. Among them, there are Western Balkan countries which see the exhibition as an excellent opportunity to showcase their artists beyond their borders.

Oftentimes, modern art might seem “too much” for societies in these countries, who used to favor socialist-realism art, a legacy from their communist past.

This is not the case at the Venice Biennale, where art has no limits.

Pavilion of Albania, 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, May You Live In Interesting Times. Photo: La Biennale di Venezia, used with permission.

The past meets the future in the present

Albania is represented in the Biennale by Driant Zeneli, who brings a sculptural video installation titled “Maybe the cosmos is not so extraordinary”. As the official Biennale site describes:

It develops from a two-channel film set in the mines of Bulqizë, a city in the northeast of the country where, since 1918, the chrome mineral has been extracted. The film stages a group of teenagers discovering a cosmic capsule which follows the journey of chrome, from its extraction and processing inside the factory to its exportation and worldwide exploitation. This ‘geopolitical’ space travel thus turns this shady and dramatic industrial environment into an ambivalent space for collapse and takeoff.

Danica Dakić is representing Bosnia-Herzegovina in the Biennale. The official site says of her installation:

[It] reflects on the poetics of human existence against the background of contemporary post-transition reality in the city of Zenica while collaborating with some of its protagonists. At one time the symbol of Yugoslav modernist progress, Zenica was left struggling after the Bosnian War. Dakić investigates the heritage of modernity, from Bauhaus to the utopian paradigms of international and Yugoslav socialist modernism. The three-video works dissolve the divisions between stage and audience, the real and the imagined city.

Pavilion of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, May You Live In Interesting Times. Photo: La Biennale di Venezia, used with permission.

Dakić is the first woman artist to represent Bosnia and Herzegovina at the international art exhibition.

Alban Muja brings to the Venice Biennale memories of the Kosovo War with a video installation named “Family Album.” The official Biennale website says:

[It] questions the role that images and the media play in constructing and shaping narrative, identity, and history, especially in times of conflict. Twenty years after the end of the war, Muja invites four young adults to ruminate on childhood photos taken by photojournalists that show them fleeing their homes. The faces on the screen react not so much to history as it actually happened, but as it was represented.

Pavilion of Kosovo, 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, May You Live In Interesting Times. Photo: La Biennale di Venezia, used with permission.

An Odyssey by Vesko Gagović of Montenegro is inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. This is the description of the official Biennale site:

It leads us through time, through spiritual expanses from prehistory to the present. The artist’s inspiration found its starting point in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Pavilion of Montenegro, 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, May You Live In Interesting Times. Photo: La Biennale di Venezia, used with permission.

Artist Nada Prlja of North Macedonia revisits concepts of Marxist theory and aspects of Modernism with a series of installations. The official Biennale site describes her project, which is named “Subversion to Red”:

While enabling a subversion of both the harsh nature of capitalism and the rigidity of socialist times, artist Nada Prlja of North Macedonia employs artistic and non-artistic methodologies, including a performance-based debate (featuring key political theorists) and installations which redefine a number of socialist-era artworks.

Regaining Memory Loss by Djordje Ozbolt of Serbia presents new paintings and sculptures that address personal and collective memory. The official website describes them:

The works in themselves are interpretations, a subjective view of the past from the perspective of the present moment. Ozbolt questions the role of the artwork in distilling the truth: in its imagined unreality, the works reveal their memory to be false, however as artistic representation, they are true.

Pavilion of Serbia, 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, May You Live In Interesting Times. Photo: La Biennale di Venezia, used with permission.

This Twitter user felt some Yugonostalgia while visiting the Serbian pavilion.

La Biennale di Venezia (as it is known in Italian), which opened on May 11, will welcome visitors until November 24, 2019.

The themes of this year's edition include among others, international crises, such as migration:

The carcass of a ship hauled off the sea bed four years ago off the coast of Libya, with hundreds of bodies of migrants, has also gone on display. Barca Nostra, Shipwreck 18th of April 2015 by Swiss-Icelandic artist Christoph Büchel. Photo: La Biennale di Venezia, used with permission.

… and one that’s particularly poignant for the city of Venice: the global warming.

Lithuania created a gigantic man made beach with an immersive live sound performance. The Pavilion also summed up the host city and its inhabitants, highlighting the coastal environment of Venice. Sun & Sea (Marina) portrays people in a humanized everyday role battling shifting climate change. Photo: La Biennale di Venezia, used with permission.

by Ardi Pulaj at May 20, 2019 02:35 AM

Harvard Law Library Innovation Lab
Improving pip-compile --generate-hashes

Recently I landed a series of contributions to the Python package pip-tools:

pip-tools is a "set of command line tools to help you keep your pip-based [Python] packages fresh, even when you've pinned them." My changes help the pip-compile --generate-hashes command work for more people.

This isn't a lot of code in the grand scheme of things, but it's the largest set of contributions I've made to a mainstream open source project, so this blog post is a celebration of me! 🎁💥🎉 yay. But it's also a chance to talk about package manager security and open source contributions and stuff like that.

I'll start high-level with "what are package managers" and work my way into the weeds, so feel free to jump in wherever you want.

What are package managers?

Package managers help us install software libraries and keep them up to date. If I want to load a URL and print the contents, I can add a dependency on a package like requests

$ echo 'requests' > requirements.txt
$ pip install -r requirements.txt
Collecting requests (from -r requirements.txt (line 1))
  Downloading https://files.pythonhosted.org/packages/8f/ea/140f18072bbcd81885a9490abb171792fd2961fd7f366be58396f4c6d634/requests-2.0.1-py2.py3-none-any.whl (439kB)
     |████████████████████████████████| 440kB 4.1MB/s
Installing collected packages: requests
Successfully installed requests-2.0.1

… and let requests do the heavy lifting:

>>> import requests
>>> requests.get('http://example.com').text
'<!doctype html>\n<html>\n<head>\n    <title>Example Domain</title> ...'

But there's a problem – if I install exactly the same package later, I might get a different result:

$ echo 'requests' > requirements.txt
$ pip install -r requirements.txt
Collecting requests (from -r requirements.txt (line 1))
  Downloading https://files.pythonhosted.org/packages/51/bd/23c926cd341ea6b7dd0b2a00aba99ae0f828be89d72b2190f27c11d4b7fb/requests-2.22.0-py2.py3-none-any.whl (57kB)
     |████████████████████████████████| 61kB 3.3MB/s
Collecting certifi>=2017.4.17 (from requests->-r requirements.txt (line 1))
  Using cached https://files.pythonhosted.org/packages/60/75/f692a584e85b7eaba0e03827b3d51f45f571c2e793dd731e598828d380aa/certifi-2019.3.9-py2.py3-none-any.whl
Collecting urllib3!=1.25.0,!=1.25.1,<1.26,>=1.21.1 (from requests->-r requirements.txt (line 1))
  Downloading https://files.pythonhosted.org/packages/39/ec/d93dfc69617a028915df914339ef66936ea976ef24fa62940fd86ba0326e/urllib3-1.25.2-py2.py3-none-any.whl (150kB)
     |████████████████████████████████| 153kB 10.6MB/s
Collecting idna<2.9,>=2.5 (from requests->-r requirements.txt (line 1))
  Using cached https://files.pythonhosted.org/packages/14/2c/cd551d81dbe15200be1cf41cd03869a46fe7226e7450af7a6545bfc474c9/idna-2.8-py2.py3-none-any.whl
Collecting chardet<3.1.0,>=3.0.2 (from requests->-r requirements.txt (line 1))
  Using cached https://files.pythonhosted.org/packages/bc/a9/01ffebfb562e4274b6487b4bb1ddec7ca55ec7510b22e4c51f14098443b8/chardet-3.0.4-py2.py3-none-any.whl
Installing collected packages: certifi, urllib3, idna, chardet, requests
Successfully installed certifi-2019.3.9 chardet-3.0.4 idna-2.8 requests-2.22.0 urllib3-1.25.2
<requirements.txt, pip install -r, import requests>

I got a different version of requests than last time, and I got some bonus dependencies (certifi, urllib3, idna, and chardet). Now my code might not do the same thing even though I did the same thing, which is not how anyone wants computers to work. (I've cheated a little bit here by showing the first example as though pip install had been run back in 2013.)

So the next step is to pin the versions of my dependencies and their dependencies, using a package like pip-tools:

$ echo 'requests' > requirements.in
$ pip-compile
$ cat requirements.txt
#
# This file is autogenerated by pip-compile
# To update, run:
#
#    pip-compile
#
certifi==2019.3.9         # via requests
chardet==3.0.4            # via requests
idna==2.8                 # via requests
requests==2.22.0
urllib3==1.25.2           # via requests

(There are other options I could use instead, like pipenv or poetry. For now I still prefer pip-tools, for roughly the reasons laid out by Hynek Schlawack.)

Now when I run pip install -r requirements.txt I will always get the same version of requests, and the same versions of its dependencies, and my program will always do the same thing.

… just kidding.

The problem with pinning Python packages

Unfortunately pip-compile doesn't quite lock down our dependencies the way we would hope! In Python land you don't necessarily get the same version of a package by asking for the same version number. That's because of binary wheels.

Up until 2015, it was possible to change a package's contents on PyPI without changing the version number, simply by deleting the package and reuploading it. That no longer works, but there is still a loophole: you can delete and reupload binary wheels.

Wheels are a new-ish binary format for distributing Python packages, including any precompiled programs written in C (or other languages) used by the package. They speed up installs and avoid the need for users to have the right compiler environment set up for each package. C-based packages typically offer a bunch of wheel files for different target environments – here's bcrypt's wheel files for example.

So what happens if a package was originally released as source, and then the maintainer wants to add binary wheels for the same release years later? PyPI will allow it, and pip will happily install the new binary files. This is a deliberate design decision: PyPI has "made the deliberate choice to allow wheel files to be added to old releases, though, and advise folks to use –no-binary and build their own wheel files from source if that is a concern."

That creates room for weird situations, like this case where wheel files were uploaded for the hiredis 0.2.0 package on August 16, 2018, three years after the source release on April 3, 2015. The package had been handed over without announcement from Jan-Erik Rediger to a new volunteer maintainer, ifduyue, who uploaded the binary wheels. ifduyue's personal information on Github consists of: a new moon emoji; an upside down face emoji; the location "China"; and an image of Lanny from the show Lizzie McGuire with spirals for eyes. In a bug thread opened after ifduyue uploaded the new version of hiredis 0.2.0, Jan-Erik commented that users should "please double-check that the content is valid and matches the repository."

ifduyue's user account on github.com

The problem is that I can't do that, and most programmers can't do that. We can't just rebuild the wheel ourselves and expect it to match, because builds are not reproducible unless one goes to great lengths like Debian does. So verifying the integrity of an unknown binary wheel requires rebuilding the wheel, comparing a diff, and checking that all discrepancies are benign – a time-consuming and error-prone process even for those with the skills to do it.

So the story of hiredis looks a lot like a new open source developer volunteering to help out on a project and picking off some low-hanging fruit in the bug tracker, but it also looks a lot like an attacker using the perfect technique to distribute malware widely in the Python ecosystem without detection. I don't know which one it is! As a situation it's bad for us as users, and it's not fair to ifduyue if in fact they're a friendly newbie contributing to a project.

(Is the hacking paranoia warranted? I think so! As Dominic Tarr wrote after inadvertently handing over control of an npm package to a bitcoin-stealing operation, "I've shared publish rights with other people before. … open source is driven by sharing! It's great! it worked really well before bitcoin got popular.")

This is a big problem with a lot of dimensions. It would be great if PyPI packages were all fully reproducible and checked to verify correctness. It would be great if PyPI didn't let you change package contents after the fact. It would be great if everyone ran their own private package index and only added packages to it that they had personally built from source that they personally checked, the way big companies do it. But in the meantime, we can bite off a little piece of the problem by adding hashes to our requirements file. Let's see how that works.

Adding hashes to our requirements file

Instead of just pinning packages like we did before, let's try adding hashes to them:

$ echo 'requests==2.0.1' > requirements.in
$ pip-compile --generate-hashes
#
# This file is autogenerated by pip-compile
# To update, run:
#
#    pip-compile --generate-hashes
#
requests==2.0.1 \
    --hash=sha256:8cfddb97667c2a9edaf28b506d2479f1b8dc0631cbdcd0ea8c8864def59c698b \
    --hash=sha256:f4ebc402e0ea5a87a3d42e300b76c292612d8467024f45f9858a8768f9fb6f6e

Now when pip-compile pins our package versions, it also fetches the currently-known hashes for each requirement and adds them to requirements.txt (an example of the crypto technique of "TOFU" or "Trust On First Use"). If someone later comes along and adds new packages, or if the https connection to PyPI is later insecure for whatever reason, pip will refuse to install and will warn us about the problem:

$ pip install -r requirements.txt
...
ERROR: THESE PACKAGES DO NOT MATCH THE HASHES FROM THE REQUIREMENTS FILE. If you have updated the package versions, please update the hashes. Otherwise, examine the package contents carefully; someone may have tampered with them.
    requests==2.0.1 from https://files.pythonhosted.org/packages/8f/ea/140f18072bbcd81885a9490abb171792fd2961fd7f366be58396f4c6d634/requests-2.0.1-py2.py3-none-any.whl#sha256=f4ebc402e0ea5a87a3d42e300b76c292612d8467024f45f9858a8768f9fb6f6e (from -r requirements.txt (line 7)):
        Expected sha256 8cfddb97667c2a9edaf28b506d2479f1b8dc0631cbdcd0ea8c8864def59c6981
        Expected     or f4ebc402e0ea5a87a3d42e300b76c292612d8467024f45f9858a8768f9fb6f61
             Got        f4ebc402e0ea5a87a3d42e300b76c292612d8467024f45f9858a8768f9fb6f6e

But there are problems lurking here! If we have packages that are installed from Github, then pip-compile can't hash them and pip won't install them:

$ echo '-e git+https://github.com/requests/requests@master#egg=requests' > requirements.in
$ pip-compile --generate-hashes
#
# This file is autogenerated by pip-compile
# To update, run:
#
#    pip-compile --generate-hashes
#
-e git+https://github.com/requests/requests@master#egg=requests
certifi==2019.3.9 \
    --hash=sha256:59b7658e26ca9c7339e00f8f4636cdfe59d34fa37b9b04f6f9e9926b3cece1a5 \
    --hash=sha256:b26104d6835d1f5e49452a26eb2ff87fe7090b89dfcaee5ea2212697e1e1d7ae
chardet==3.0.4 \
    --hash=sha256:84ab92ed1c4d4f16916e05906b6b75a6c0fb5db821cc65e70cbd64a3e2a5eaae \
    --hash=sha256:fc323ffcaeaed0e0a02bf4d117757b98aed530d9ed4531e3e15460124c106691
idna==2.8 \
    --hash=sha256:c357b3f628cf53ae2c4c05627ecc484553142ca23264e593d327bcde5e9c3407 \
    --hash=sha256:ea8b7f6188e6fa117537c3df7da9fc686d485087abf6ac197f9c46432f7e4a3c
urllib3==1.25.2 \
    --hash=sha256:a53063d8b9210a7bdec15e7b272776b9d42b2fd6816401a0d43006ad2f9902db \
    --hash=sha256:d363e3607d8de0c220d31950a8f38b18d5ba7c0830facd71a1c6b1036b7ce06c
$ pip install -r requirements.txt
Obtaining requests from git+https://github.com/requests/requests@master#egg=requests (from -r requirements.txt (line 7))
ERROR: The editable requirement requests from git+https://github.com/requests/requests@master#egg=requests (from -r requirements.txt (line 7)) cannot be installed when requiring hashes, because there is no single file to hash.

That's a serious limitation, because -e requirements are the only way pip-tools knows to specify installations from version control, which are useful while you wait for new fixes in dependencies to be released. (We mostly use them at LIL for dependencies that we've patched ourselves, after we send fixes upstream but before they are released.)

And if we have packages that rely on dependencies pip-tools considers unsafe to pin, like setuptools, pip will refuse to install those too:

$ echo 'Markdown' > requirements.in
$ pip-compile --generate-hashes
#
# This file is autogenerated by pip-compile
# To update, run:
#
#    pip-compile --generate-hashes
#
markdown==3.1 \
    --hash=sha256:fc4a6f69a656b8d858d7503bda633f4dd63c2d70cf80abdc6eafa64c4ae8c250 \
    --hash=sha256:fe463ff51e679377e3624984c829022e2cfb3be5518726b06f608a07a3aad680
$ pip install -r requirements.txt
Collecting markdown==3.1 (from -r requirements.txt (line 7))
  Using cached https://files.pythonhosted.org/packages/f5/e4/d8c18f2555add57ff21bf25af36d827145896a07607486cc79a2aea641af/Markdown-3.1-py2.py3-none-any.whl
Collecting setuptools>=36 (from markdown==3.1->-r requirements.txt (line 7))
ERROR: In --require-hashes mode, all requirements must have their versions pinned with ==. These do not:
    setuptools>=36 from https://files.pythonhosted.org/packages/ec/51/f45cea425fd5cb0b0380f5b0f048ebc1da5b417e48d304838c02d6288a1e/setuptools-41.0.1-py2.py3-none-any.whl#sha256=c7769ce668c7a333d84e17fe8b524b1c45e7ee9f7908ad0a73e1eda7e6a5aebf (from markdown==3.1->-r requirements.txt (line 7))

This can be worked around by adding --allow-unsafe, but (a) that sounds unsafe (though it isn't), and (b) it won't pop up until you try to set up a new environment with a low version of setuptools, potentially days later on someone else's machine.

Fixing pip-tools

Those two problems meant that, when I set out to convert our Caselaw Access Project code to use --generate-hashes, I did it wrong a few times in a row, leading to multiple hours spent debugging problems I created for me and other team members (sorry, Anastasia!). I ended up needing a fancy wrapper script around pip-compile to rewrite our requirements in a form it could understand. I wanted it to be a smoother experience for the next people who try to secure their Python projects.

So I filed a series of pull requests:

Support URLs as packages

Support URLs as packages #807 and Fix –generate-hashes with bare VCS URLs #812 laid the groundwork for fixing --generate-hashes, by teaching pip-tools to do something that had been requested for years: installing packages from archive URLs. Where before, pip-compile could only handle Github requirements like this:

-e git+https://github.com/requests/requests@master#egg=requests

It can now handle requirements like this:

https://github.com/requests/requests/archive/master.zip

And zipped requirements can be hashed, so the resulting requirements.txt comes out looking like this, and is accepted by pip install:

https://github.com/requests/requests/archive/master.zip \
   	     --hash=sha256:3c3d84d35630808bf7750b0368b2c7988f89d9f5c2f2633c47f075b3d5015638

This was a long process, and began with resurrecting a pull request from 2017 that had first been worked on by nim65s. I started by just rebasing the existing work, fixing some tests, and submitting it in the hopes the problem had already been solved. Thanks to great feedback from auvipy, atugushev, and blueyed, I ended up making 14 more commits (and eventually a follow-up pull request) to clean up edge cases and get everything working.

Landing this resulted in closing two other pip-tools pull requests from 2016 and 2017, and feature requests from 2014 and 2018.

Warn when --generate-hashes output is uninstallable

The next step was Fix pip-compile output for unsafe requirements #813 and Warn when –generate-hashes output is uninstallable #814. These two PRs allowed pip-compile --generate-hashes to detect and warn when a file would be uninstallable for hashing reasons. Fortunately pip-compile has all of the information it needs at compile time to know that the file will be uninstallable and to make useful recommendations for what to do about it:

$ pip-compile --generate-hashes
#
# This file is autogenerated by pip-compile
# To update, run:
#
#    pip-compile --generate-hashes
#
# WARNING: pip install will require the following package to be hashed.
# Consider using a hashable URL like https://github.com/jazzband/pip-tools/archive/SOMECOMMIT.zip
-e git+https://github.com/jazzband/pip-tools@7d86c8d3ecd1faa6be11c7ddc6b29a30ffd1dae3#egg=pip-tools
click==7.0 \
    --hash=sha256:2335065e6395b9e67ca716de5f7526736bfa6ceead690adf616d925bdc622b13 \
    --hash=sha256:5b94b49521f6456670fdb30cd82a4eca9412788a93fa6dd6df72c94d5a8ff2d7
first==2.0.2 \
    --hash=sha256:8d8e46e115ea8ac652c76123c0865e3ff18372aef6f03c22809ceefcea9dec86 \
    --hash=sha256:ff285b08c55f8c97ce4ea7012743af2495c9f1291785f163722bd36f6af6d3bf
markdown==3.1 \
    --hash=sha256:fc4a6f69a656b8d858d7503bda633f4dd63c2d70cf80abdc6eafa64c4ae8c250 \
    --hash=sha256:fe463ff51e679377e3624984c829022e2cfb3be5518726b06f608a07a3aad680
six==1.12.0 \
    --hash=sha256:3350809f0555b11f552448330d0b52d5f24c91a322ea4a15ef22629740f3761c \
    --hash=sha256:d16a0141ec1a18405cd4ce8b4613101da75da0e9a7aec5bdd4fa804d0e0eba73

# WARNING: The following packages were not pinned, but pip requires them to be
# pinned when the requirements file includes hashes. Consider using the --allow-unsafe flag.
# setuptools==41.0.1        # via markdown

Hopefully, between these two efforts, the next project to try using –generate-hashes will find it a shorter and more straightforward process than I did!

Things left undone

Along the way I discovered a few issues that could be fixed in various projects to help the situation. Here are some pointers:

First, the warning to use --allow-unsafe seems unnecessary – I believe that --allow-unsafe should be the default behavior for pip-compile. I spent some time digging into the reasons that pip-tools considers some packages "unsafe," and as best I can tell it is because it was thought that pinning those packages could potentially break pip itself, and thus break the user's ability to recover from a mistake. This seems to no longer be true, if it ever was. Instead, failing to use –allow-unsafe is unsafe, as it means different environments will end up with different versions of key packages despite installing from identical requirements.txt files. I started some discussion about that on the pip-tools repo and the pip repo.

Second, the warning not to use version control links with --generate-hashes is necessary only because of pip's decision to refuse to install those links alongside hashed requirements. That seems like a bad security tradeoff for several reasons. I filed a bug with pip to open up discussion on the topic.

Third, PyPI and binary wheels. I'm not sure if there's been further discussion on the decision to allow retrospective binary uploads since 2017, but the example of hiredis makes it seem like that has some major downsides and might be worth reconsidering. I haven't yet filed anything for this.

Personal reflections (and, thanks Jazzband!)

I didn't write a ton of code for this in the end, but it was a big step for me personally in working with a mainstream open source project, and I had a lot of fun – learning tools like black and git multi-author commits that we don't use on our own projects at LIL, collaborating with highly responsive and helpful reviewers (thanks, all!), learning the internals of pip-tools, and hopefully putting something out there that will make people more secure.

pip-tools is part of the Jazzband project, which is an interesting attempt to make the Python package ecosystem a little more sustainable by lowering the bar to maintaining popular packages. I had a great experience with the maintainers working on pip-tools in particular, and I'm grateful for the work that's gone into making Jazzband happen in general.

by Jack Cushman at May 20, 2019 12:00 AM

May 19, 2019

Rising Voices
RV Newsletter: Amplifying the voices of Native American language activists on Twitter

llustration mashup created by Eddie Avila, utilizing the bird icon by Sara Novovitch, ES and the languages icon by Erik Arndt at the Noun Project.

Rising Voices note: Our biweekly newsletter provides a summary of our recent blog posts about all aspects of digital inclusion including access and adoption of digital tools, as well as different ways and opporunities for communities to fully participate online. Read here for previous editions of this newsletter.

In the spirit of the International Year of Indigenous languages 2019 (#IYIL19), Rising Voices and the Endangered Languages Project are joining efforts on a new social media campaign: @NativeLangsTech.  This rotating Twitter campaign aims to engage Native American (U.S.) and First Nations (Canada) communities in amplifying their voices, sharing their stories, and promoting their languages.

Roy Boney, a language activist of the Cherokee Nation, will be the first of many to host the @NativeLangsTech Twitter account.  Aside from Roy, you will also get to learn about the Munsee/Lunaape language, the Gwich'in language, to name a few, from a roster of language digital activists based in Canada and the United States.

As one of our readers, you might be familiar with two other similar initiatives of ours already: @ActLenguas (for indigenous languages in Latin America) and @DigiAfricanLang (for indigenous languages in Africa).  But if you are curious about indigenous languages in the United States and Canada and/or how language revitalization is done in the age of internet and technology, please take our invitation and follow these brilliant language activists on @NativeLangsTech!

MORE FROM THE RISING VOICES BLOG

For this issue, we’d like you to meet two recent hosts of our rotating Twitter project on African language digital activism (@DigiAfricanLang)!  We would like to thank Dámilọ́lá Adébọ́nọ̀jọ (aka Ìyá Yorùbá) for sharing with us her work on the Yorùbá Language and Siya Masuku for his work on the isiZulu language.  Please read the Q&A posts to learn more about them and their work!

Meanwhile, we continue on bringing you republished articles from APC’s GISWatch, which focuses on community networks.  In this issue, we’d like to present you with an Italian experience, where a community of hackers put their skills to work and help bridge the gap in one of the European countries that has the largest digital divide.  Want to learn more about the challenges they are facing and/or similar initiatives in Italy? Please read along.

CONTESTS & COMPETITIONS

Running a not-for-profit grassroots organization aiming to promote intercultural dialogue and understanding for a more inclusive society, in terms of faith, age, gender, etc.?  Looking to make a bigger impact? United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), partnered with the BMW Group, is seeking eligible applicants for their Intercultural Innovation Award.  Please see here for details.  Application due: May 31, 2019 (5pm EDT)

UPCOMING EVENTS & CONFERENCES

The 7th African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG 2019) is calling for application.  This is a six-day event of intensive learning and knowledge sharing on internet governance and related issues, tentatively scheduled to be held in early September.  Please visit their site for eligibility, updates, and other details.  Application due: June 1, 2019 / Location: TBD

TOOLS & RESOURCES

Do you ever wonder how many Latino news media outlets there are in the United States?  You can now find out with this interactive Latino News Media Map created by the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York (CUNY).  [English / Spanish]

ADDITIONAL READINGS & LISTENINGS

 

Subscribe to the Rising Voices Newsletter

 

 

Thanks to Eddie Avila for contributions to this newsletter.

by Yanne C at May 19, 2019 07:12 AM

May 18, 2019

Global Voices
Why are Colombian indigenous peoples protesting against President Ivan Duque?

Indigenous people are leading a mass movement in Colombia

Screenshot of the video shared by the Cauca's Regional Indigenous Council. The video shares images of the protests that took place in the South West of the country earlier in April.

Indigenous, Afro-Colombian, and farming communities are staging mass protests around Colombia against President Ivan Duque's National Development Plan, an array of directives that, among other things, will encourage foreign investment in large-scale mining and agribusiness which could threaten indigenous territories.

In March 2019, indigenous communities shut down a major highway in the Cauca region for 25 days. On April 25, they were joined by other social movements in leading a national strike. Besides threats to indigenous rights, strikers have protested against budgets cuts in education and the slow implementation of the 2016 Peace Accords — of which Duque, who's still to complete a year in office, is an outspoken critic.

Indigenous peoples have referred to the demonstrations as “mingas,” a Quechua word meaning “collective work” widely used in protest movements in South America.

#NationalStrike | Indigenous communities, farmers, and afros of Tado, are mobilizing from the early hours of the morning all along the highway from Pereira to Quibdo as part of the National Strike #It'sWorthItToProtest

The National Development Plan includes reforms in different sectors, such as education, energy, and agriculture. While Duque claims the programs will lift 3,4 million Colombians out of poverty, critics counter that it benefits primarily private corporations. Indigenous minga leaders are particularly concerned with the aspects of the plan that might challenge their right to prior consultation on development projects on their territories.

While the government has agreed to negotiate with indigenous leaders about the plan, a final agreement is yet to be reached. According to the newspaper El Espectador, the amount of land the government is willing to protect on behalf of indigenous peoples are way below of what the communities demand:

La diferencia entre lo que ofrece el gobierno de Iván Duque y lo que piden las comunidades indígenas para despejar la vía Panamericana es abismal. El Ejecutivo habla de 1 500 hectáreas para resolver las necesidades de todas las organizaciones que integran la minga, mientras que el requerimiento de los organizadores de la protesta es de 40 000 hectáreas

The difference between what Iván Duque's government offers and what the indigenous communities are asking for in order to open the Panamericana highway is abysmal. The President talks about 1,500 hectares to resolve the needs of all the organizations that make up the minga, whereas the requirements of the organizations that are protesting is 40,000 hectares.

Peace accords

Signed between former President Juan Manuel Santos and the leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the country's largest guerrilla group, the 2016 Peace Accords ended the country's five-decade internal conflict by proclaiming a definitive ceasefire in exchange for participation by former FARC members in institutional politics.

The Peace Accords have also created protections to prevent the accumulation of land by individuals and foreign companies in rural areas. It prioritized land redistribution and designated a few areas for indigenous, Afro-Colombian, and farming communities who have been severely affected by the long conflict. Unequal land ownership in rural areas was a major reason why FARC group took up arms in the 1960s.

However, full implementation of the agreement has remained elusive as many conservative sectors in Colombia are staunchly against those terms. Meanwhile, smaller armed groups remain active in the countryside, where they have staged deadly disputes for control over FARC's former territories. As a consequence, the number of killed social leaders in rural areas has skyrocketed since the Accords’ signature. While figures vary depending on how a “social leader” is defined, the Colombian ombudsman's office says 460 social leaders have been killed between 2016 and March 31, 2019.

Duque, along with his main ally, former President Álvaro Uribe, is among the most prominent detractors of the peace agreement. In recent months, he has attempted to weaken the authority of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) a judicial body created by the Accords to try both guerrilla and government actors suspected of war crimes. Many groups are outraged at those measures, which they say could undermine the chances of true reconciliation.

People shared their reasons for joining the April 25 strike with the hashtag #VamosAlParoPor (We Are Going to Strike For) and #MingaNacionalPorLaVida (National Minga For Life).

We are going to strike for the indigenous minga, because we demand protection to social leaders, former fighters, in support of the JEP and the implementation of the peace accords. For better labor conditions for teachers and workers’ centrals.

La Pulla, a YouTube channel of political commentary, delved into the growing tension in a video titled “Esto pasa cuando el Estado ignora a su gente” (This is What Happens when a Government Ignores its People), where they examine the long history of government neglect in the countryside, particularly the departments of Cauca, Nariño, La Guajira, and Catatumbo. The journalist states:

La minga nos recuerda que eso no es el único lugar donde viven incumpliendo la gente y le hacen pistola cada vez que pueda. Vemos cuatro regiones del país que el estado ignora por completa.

The minga reminds us that it is not the only place where people live with unfulfilled (promises), with the government flicking them off every time it can. We see four regions of the country that the state ignores completely.

No definite solution has been given to the minga's and strikers’ demands, so protests are likely to continue in the coming months.

by Kati Hinman at May 18, 2019 06:04 AM

May 17, 2019

Global Voices
Jamaica’s ‘Voices for Climate Change’ spreads its message with music

When it comes to climate change, music is the message

Screenshot from the YouTube video “Voices for Climate Change Education – 2019 Campaign,” published by Panos Caribbean. The organisation has launched an eight-month climate change community awareness campaign in four communities across Jamaica: Rocky Point and Lionel Town in the parish of Clarendon, Ridge Red Bank in St. Elizabeth and White River in St Ann.

From reggae and dancehall music to jingles extolling the virtues of everything from laundry detergent to fast food, the way to any Jamaican’s heart is through song — prompting Panos Caribbean, a media-savvy non-governmental organisation, to take a musical approach to spread its environmental message. The organisation has been successfully sharing critical information with the public through its Voices for Climate Change project.

Those voices rang out loud and clear at the historic United Nations Conference in Paris (COP21) in 2015. There, Jamaican singer and songwriter Aaron Silk joined forces with other musicians — including Belizean performer Adrian Martinez — to advocate for a 1.5-degree limit to global warming.

The musical message, which supported the position of Small Island Developing States, was considerable, influencing the aspirations reflected in COP21’s final document.

Years later, the “1.5” message continues to resonate in the eastern Caribbean, where singers have intertwined St. Lucian poet Kendel Hippolyte’s words with their own lyrics in order to ensure the message hits home.

Community artist Sammy Junior, from Rocky Point, Clarendon (a community impacted by sea level rise and coastal erosion) at a workshop on Climate Change Messaging in Jamaica on March 14, 2019. Photo by Emma Lewis, used with permission.

The climate change crisis in 2019 is even more urgent than it was four years ago and in Jamaica, rural citizens from farmers to fisherfolk are heeding the wake-up call. Artists, schoolchildren and community members came together in different parts of Jamaica — Kingston, Lionel Town, Ridge Red Bank and White River — for four days of workshops during the months of March and April. There, they honed their communication skills and learned about the impact of climate change. Powerful lyrics emerged, ideas flowed and eye-opening field trips provided on-the-ground perspectives:

Mama Earth she a bawl
Deep inna di forest weh di trees dem a fall
Look pan di reef, see di fish dem small,
Give dem little time, mek dem grow big and tall.

Mother Earth she bawls
Deep in the forest where the trees fall
Look upon the reef, see the fish how small
Give them a little time, make them grow big and tall

Artists from Kingston, Clarendon and Spanish Town working together on lyrics at the Climate Change Messaging workshop. Photo by Emma Lewis, used with permission.

With Panos’ launch of a new Caribbean theme song for Earth Day, the Jamaican group is booked solid for school and community concerts, as well as the Read Across Jamaica initiative and tree-planting sessions. Lyrics like these, delivered to a roots reggae rhythm and infused with dancehall vibes, somehow manage to hit home:

Mother Nature yearns for life
The more the factories burn, she cries.
When will we learn, and be wise?
The more the ice caps melt, the sea rise.

by Emma Lewis at May 17, 2019 11:46 PM

Netizen Report: Amid WhatsApp attacks, advocates launch legal challenge against Israeli malware maker

Stylized photo of surveillance cameras. Image by Corey Burger via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Advox Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in technology and human rights around the world. This report covers news and events from May 10 – 17, 2019.

On May 13, WhatsApp users in multiple countries were targeted with malicious software developed by the Israeli company NSO group and deployed by governments that had purchased the software.

The software appears to have taken advantage of a technical flaw in WhatsApp, that has since been repaired. The attacks were uniquely malicious because of the ease with which they can infect a person’s device — by simply receiving a call or message, a user could unknowingly enable the software to install itself on their device, giving attackers broad access to their private communications and activities.

NSO Group is the creator of the notorious spyware Pegasus, which the company exclusively sells to governments, typically making contracts with law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Once installed, the software ostensibly allows the attacker to see and document everything that victims do and say on their devices, capturing messages, location and many other pieces of data. It has been linked to attacks on activists and journalists in Mexico, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, where it was found on a device belonging to now-jailed human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor.

In response to this and other attacks that have been documented in recent years by advocacy and tech research groups including The Citizen Lab at University of Toronto and Amnesty International, the Bernstein Institute for Human Rights at New York University and Global Justice Clinic are taking legal action in an effort to stop the company from selling this type of software. They have filed a legal challenge demanding that Israel's Ministry of Defence revoke the export license of NSO Group.

Their petition argues that NSO Group is violating international human rights law by allowing governments to target human rights activists, as opposed to aiding them solely in “fighting crime and terror,” as dictated by their licensing agreement.

NSO Group is also facing lawsuits filed by individuals accusing the company of helping the governments of Mexico and the United Arab Emirates to surveil members of civil society. Late last year, a Canada-based Saudi dissident filed another lawsuit, alleging that the software had allowed Saudi authorities to snoop on his communications with journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the lead-up to Khashoggi's October 2018 murder at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul.

Safety tips: How to protect your device and update your WhatsApp

States and companies join ‘Christchurch Call’ to curb violent extremism online

A group of government leaders, tech companies and civil society experts met in Paris on May 15 to discuss the role of the internet in preserving public safety and human rights in the aftermath of the attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019. Several of the governments and companies later signed a non-binding document known as the “Christchurch Call,” a set of principles and commitments concerning the creation and distribution of viral, violent content online.

Spearheaded by the government of New Zealand, the Christchurch Call aims to be “consistent with principles of a free, open and secure internet, without compromising human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression” and indicates that any regulation resulting from the deliberations should adhere to international human rights standards. The call also urges internet companies to provide greater public transparency about their policies and processes for removing (and appealing the removal of) violent content.

Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon have joined the call. Alongside New Zealand and several EU governments, Australia, Canada, India, Indonesia, Japan and Senegal have signed on. The US declined to sign, with the White House citing its “respect for freedom of expression and freedom of the press.”

Somalia blocks social media for student exams

The Somali government announced that it will shut down access to social media platforms from May 27-31, in an effort to prevent secondary school students from cheating on end-of-year exams. The exam period was postponed in early May, after officials discovered that a copy of exam answers had leaked online. The secretary of education made the announcement on state television on May 13 and offered no details on which platforms would be blocked.

Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, Seif Magango, criticized the move, arguing that Somali officials should “explore ways to secure the integrity of the exams without resorting to regressive measures that would curtail access to information and freedom of expression.”

Singapore approves ‘anti-fake news’ law

Singapore’s parliament approved the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act on May 8, 2019. Commonly known as the anti-fake news law, the Act gives broad, unchecked powers to government ministers to compel website administrators, internet service providers, and even private chat groups to immediately correct or remove ‘fake news’ from their domains. But the law's definition of what counts as fake or false is remarkably vague.

In a letter to Singapore’s prime minister, UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye wrote:

“I am concerned that this overbroad definition of falsehood will lead to the criminalization and suppression of a wide range of expressive conduct, including criticism of the government, and the expression of unpopular, controversial or minority opinions.”

Two men in Bangladesh arrested for non-violent Facebook posts

Two men in Bangladesh were arrested after private citizens filed lawsuits against them concerning posts they had written on Facebook. One, Henry Swapon, had criticized a local bishop. The other, Imtiaz Mahmood, had commented on ethnic conflict in the country’s Chittagong region.

Swapon is now facing charges under the Digital Security Act, a 2018 law that criminalizes various types of online speech, ranging from defamatory messages to speech that “injures religious values or sentiments.”

New research

 

Subscribe to the Netizen Report

 

 

by Advox at May 17, 2019 10:22 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Netizen Report: Amid WhatsApp attacks, advocates launch legal challenge against Israeli malware maker

Stylized photo of surveillance cameras. Image by Corey Burger via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Advox Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in technology and human rights around the world. This report covers news and events from May 10 – 17, 2019.

On May 13, WhatsApp users in multiple countries were targeted with malicious software developed by the Israeli company NSO group and deployed by governments that had purchased the software.

The software appears to have taken advantage of a technical flaw in WhatsApp, that has since been repaired. The attacks were uniquely malicious because of the ease with which they can infect a person’s device — by simply receiving a call or message, a user could unknowingly enable the software to install itself on their device, giving attackers broad access to their private communications and activities.

NSO Group is the creator of the notorious spyware Pegasus, which the company exclusively sells to governments, typically making contracts with law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Once installed, the software ostensibly allows the attacker to see and document everything that victims do and say on their devices, capturing messages, location and many other pieces of data. It has been linked to attacks on activists and journalists in Mexico, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, where it was found on a device belonging to now-jailed human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor.

In response to this and other attacks that have been documented in recent years by advocacy and tech research groups including The Citizen Lab at University of Toronto and Amnesty International, the Bernstein Institute for Human Rights at New York University and Global Justice Clinic are taking legal action in an effort to stop the company from selling this type of software. They have filed a legal challenge demanding that Israel's Ministry of Defence revoke the export license of NSO Group.

Their petition argues that NSO Group is violating international human rights law by allowing governments to target human rights activists, as opposed to aiding them solely in “fighting crime and terror,” as dictated by their licensing agreement.

NSO Group is also facing lawsuits filed by individuals accusing the company of helping the governments of Mexico and the United Arab Emirates to surveil members of civil society. Late last year, a Canada-based Saudi dissident filed another lawsuit, alleging that the software had allowed Saudi authorities to snoop on his communications with journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the lead-up to Khashoggi's October 2018 murder at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul.

Safety tips: How to protect your device and update your WhatsApp

States and companies join ‘Christchurch Call’ to curb violent extremism online

A group of government leaders, tech companies and civil society experts met in Paris on May 15 to discuss the role of the internet in preserving public safety and human rights in the aftermath of the attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019. Several of the governments and companies later signed a non-binding document known as the “Christchurch Call,” a set of principles and commitments concerning the creation and distribution of viral, violent content online.

Spearheaded by the government of New Zealand, the Christchurch Call aims to be “consistent with principles of a free, open and secure internet, without compromising human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression” and indicates that any regulation resulting from the deliberations should adhere to international human rights standards. The call also urges internet companies to provide greater public transparency about their policies and processes for removing (and appealing the removal of) violent content.

Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon have joined the call. Alongside New Zealand and several EU governments, Australia, Canada, India, Indonesia, Japan and Senegal have signed on. The US declined to sign, with the White House citing its “respect for freedom of expression and freedom of the press.”

Somalia blocks social media for student exams

The Somali government announced that it will shut down access to social media platforms from May 27-31, in an effort to prevent secondary school students from cheating on end-of-year exams. The exam period was postponed in early May, after officials discovered that a copy of exam answers had leaked online. The secretary of education made the announcement on state television on May 13 and offered no details on which platforms would be blocked.

Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, Seif Magango, criticized the move, arguing that Somali officials should “explore ways to secure the integrity of the exams without resorting to regressive measures that would curtail access to information and freedom of expression.”

Singapore approves ‘anti-fake news’ law

Singapore’s parliament approved the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act on May 8, 2019. Commonly known as the anti-fake news law, the Act gives broad, unchecked powers to government ministers to compel website administrators, internet service providers, and even private chat groups to immediately correct or remove ‘fake news’ from their domains. But the law's definition of what counts as fake or false is remarkably vague.

In a letter to Singapore’s prime minister, UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye wrote:

“I am concerned that this overbroad definition of falsehood will lead to the criminalization and suppression of a wide range of expressive conduct, including criticism of the government, and the expression of unpopular, controversial or minority opinions.”

Two men in Bangladesh arrested for non-violent Facebook posts

Two men in Bangladesh were arrested after private citizens filed lawsuits against them concerning posts they had written on Facebook. One, Henry Swapon, had criticized a local bishop. The other, Imtiaz Mahmood, had commented on ethnic conflict in the country’s Chittagong region.

Swapon is now facing charges under the Digital Security Act, a 2018 law that criminalizes various types of online speech, ranging from defamatory messages to speech that “injures religious values or sentiments.”

New research

 

Subscribe to the Netizen Report

 

 

by Netizen Report Team at May 17, 2019 10:20 PM

Global Voices
Brazilians took to the streets to protest Bolsonaro's education cuts

Protesters in Rio de Janeiro: Our weapon is education | Image: Marianna Cartaxo / Mídia NINJA/Used with permission

On May 15, thousands of Brazilians took to the streets in all 26 states and the Federal District against the Bolsonaro government's slashing of federal funds to education that will affect dozens of universities and schools.

At the end of April, Brazil's government announced cuts of 30 percent on a so-called discretionary budget, which goes towards expenses such as electricity, water, general maintenance, and research. When considering the total federal budget for higher education, the cuts would amount to around 3,5 percent. Besides, the government has suspended funds for 3,500 publicly-funded postgraduate scholarships.

From Paulista Avenue in São Paulo, a traditional gathering spot for protests, to far away indigenous lands in Alto Rio Negro, near the border with Colombia, people went out to defend their public education. In Viçosa, Minas Gerais, a crowd of around 5,000 people marched with umbrellas under heavy rain.

Brazil has 69 federal universities and a large number of state universities, all offering undergraduate and postgraduate education completely free of tuition, and several community-oriented services such as extension courses, legal assistance offices, and hospitals.

Initially, the cuts would apply to only three federal universities, but they were later extended to the entire federal network. Bolsonaro's Education Minister Abraham Weintraub says that they're not “cuts” but a “contingency of expenses.”

Weintraub has justified the cuts because public universities are “places of mayhem.” When asked by reporters to name examples of such “mayhem,” he mentioned the presence of social movements in campuses, and “parties with naked people.”

Weintraub was appointed as minister in early April after his short-lived predecessor's administration became involved in a series of controversies. The new minister often voices rightwing conspiracy theories, such as that crack cocaine was introduced in Brazil as part of a communist plot, and that he wants to erase “cultural Marxism” from universities.

Some university deans have said that the cuts might impede them from “opening their doors” as early as the second semester of 2019. The Federal Prosecutor's Office has sent a report to the attorney general claiming the cuts violate Brazil's Constitution.

Researchers at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) who study WhatsApp groups in Brazil have detected conversations around universities on that messaging app in the days following the budget cut's announcement. The study has developed a tool that monitors WhatsApp groups and is widely used by fact-checking agencies in Brazil. Lead researcher Fabrício Benevuto said on a Facebook post on May 8:

São monografias/dissertações/eventos ridicularizados por seus títulos e temas. São imagens de pessoas peladas em festas (que nem são nas universidades) e protestos e memes dizendo que os alunos das federais levam mais de 12 anos pra formar, pois só usam drogas. Claramente é um esforço orquestrado. Trabalho de profissional. Segue o mesmo estilo da campanha eleitoral. Quem financia essa fábrica de desinformação?

[The images include] monographies/dissertation/events mocked by their titles and topics. There are images of naked people in parties (that aren't even in universities) and protests and memes that say university students take 12 years to graduate because they're on drugs all the time. It's clearly an orchestrated effort. A professional's job. It's the same style of the electoral campaign. Who finances this factory of disinformation?

An article by website Ciência na Rua (“science in the streets” in Portuguese) claims that public universities produce 95 percent of scientific research in Brazil. A study by the United States’ consultancy Clarivate Analytics in 2018 points out that on the top 20 universities with the most prominent research production, 15 are part of the federal network.

On the day of the protests, Minister Weintraub was summoned to testify about the budget cuts in the lower house of Congress.

Meanwhile, Bolsonaro was in Texas, in the United States, where he met former US president George W. Bush. When asked about the protests, the president said:

É natural [que haja protesto], agora a maioria ali é militante,  não tem nada na cabeça, se perguntar 7×8 pra ele, não sabe.  Se você perguntar a fórmula da água, não sabe, não sabe nada. São uns idiotas úteis, uns imbecis, que estão sendo usados como massa de manobra de uma minoria espertalhona que compõe o núcleo de muitas universidades federais no Brasil.

It’s natural [that protests happen], now, the majority of people there are militants with nothing inside their heads. If you ask the result of 7 times 8, they won’t know. If you ask about the composition of water, they won’t know, they know nothing. They are useful idiots, imbeciles, and are being manipulated by a canny minority that commands many federal universities in Brazil.

by GV Brasil at May 17, 2019 06:24 PM

30 years after the Tiananmen Massacre: An interview with survivor Zhou Fengsuo

Regardless of how dark the situation is, we will persist.

Zhou Fengsuo (circled) was no.5 in the Beijing police wanted list after the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre. Photo: Zhou Fengsuo.

The following post is originally written by Kris Cheng and published by Hong Kong Free Press on 12 May 2019. The edited version is republished on Global Voices under a content partnership agreement.

Ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, HKFP asked several survivors of the crackdown to answer a set of questions about the tragedy and share their views on China’s future.

The 1989 massacre ended months of student-led demonstrations in China as the military was deployed to suppress protesters in Beijing. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people died.

Zhou Fengsuo was a fourth-year physics student at Tsinghua University in 1989 who became a student leader of the Beijing Autonomous University Students Union during the movement. He now lives in the US and HKFP last spoke to him in 2014 when he visited Hong Kong during the Umbrella Movement protests. Zhou had previously worked in finance and currently serves as president of the group, Humanitarian China.

HKFP: It is becoming more and more difficult to demand responsibility for June 4th. Do you still have any hope?

Zhou Fengsuo: The Chinese Communist Party must bear responsibility, this is the most important thing. Those directly responsible were, of course, the families of ex-Chinese leaders Deng Xiaoping and Li Peng.

We have our views on how to seek responsibility – in my view, if a democratic government seeks responsibility from them, the wealth of the two families must be taken away, including their next generations.

To seek responsibility is to seek justice, and the beginning of that is to find the truth. For example, how did they decide how to kill people? Why did they kill people? Truth is important for finding out who is responsible.

It is a very big problem in China that people who committed these evil acts did not take any responsibility. We have to make an example of those who committed evil acts – regardless of where they went – we must seek responsibility.

We have evidence that clearly points to the families of Deng Xiaoping and Li Peng. Some have proposed placing two kneeling statues at the Liberty Sculpture Park [in the US] close to the June 4 monument. This is what we can do on the civil side.

HKFP: Is there any particular experience you recall vividly after leaving China?

Zhou Fengsuo: I was jailed for a year after 1989. I was in exile in Yangyuan County in Hebei Province. I left China in early 1995.

I fought for my opportunity to leave China. I went through a long process – I earned a scholarship to study physics [at a US university] but I was not given a passport. I protested and marched and fought for my passport.

Zhou Fengsuo. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

HKFP: Some 1989 activists are still in China. Are you concerned about their condition? What can be done for them?

Zhou Fengsuo: Humanitarian China [a group Zhou co-founded] has been helping them by providing financial assistance, getting information about their situations and advocating for them. They include the Tiananmen Mothers, [Chinese] residents who were against the violent crackdown, and wanted students. We have been helping them in all kinds of ways.

Many are under oppression because of the 1989 protests and the commemorations afterward. They include the '89 alcohol bottle case, and Zeng Guofan of Jiangxi Province who was arrested last year for commemorating June 4 – these are the people we are concerned about.

The most important thing is that we need more people to talk about their stories. The authorities were very barbaric in these cases, and there weren't many people in China who would speak out for them.

They also include Professor Xu Zhangrun and Jiang Yanyong – we need to care about them. Many people have sacrificed their freedom. Liu Xianbin was jailed for more than 20 years in 1989. We need to pay attention to them because the Chinese Communist Party hopes that they will be forgotten after 30 years.

HKFP: 30 years have passed and many relatives and parents of the victims have passed away. Do you regret being unable to visit your family for decades?

Zhou Fengsuo: I have no regrets about not being able to go home to visit my family. I have talked about it many times – the Communist Party wanted me to come back and make a fortune. But I said, if I come back, I will not visit my family, I will not do business. I will talk about June 4 for my whole life anywhere, and it will be my top priority when I return to China.

The work I do overseas will continue in China. I don’t really like the sentimentality of the subject of returning home. This is something that the Chinese Communist Party has exploited. It wanted to make coming home a sentimental thing – this is not acceptable. If I come back, I will do everything to overthrow this regime, I have said this many times.

HKFP: After 30 years of huge changes, where do you see China going in the future? Do you see any hope that it will turn out better politically?

Zhou Fengsuo: To tolerate the existence of the Chinese Communist Party is not only dangerous to Han people in China but to people in Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Macau and the whole world.

This is the reality we are facing. We allowed this regime – which killed people using tanks in 1989 – to continue to exist, the US did business with it. It was – and is – the shame of the international community.

We will never reconcile, we must fully resist.

HKFP: In terms of recent developments in China, two of them are particularly alarming: The crackdown on lawyers and the phenomena of forced confessions. How do you see these developments?

Zhou Fengsuo: We cannot be optimistic about China’s situation. The madness of Xi Jinping has its own basis in Chinese society, namely the middle class pretending to be ignorant and the young generation who are being brainwashed.

This is very scary for a country’s future and a great challenge to the world’s development of peace. Xi Jinping’s madness and stupidity is a representation of this country. China will have to pay a heavy price for it in the future.

I believe that forces pushing for change inside China – bottom-up or top-down – were almost non-existent. It may likely be the case that we need to force China to change through the confrontation between countries.

But our principles won’t change, regardless of whether China will change. We demand a regime which has respect for freedom, dignity, and life. Regardless of how dark the situation is right now, we will persist.

by Hong Kong Free Press at May 17, 2019 11:17 AM

Anti-Muslim attacks stoke tensions and incite fear amongst mourning Sri Lankans

According to the authorities, the situation is under control

Muslims praying In Sri Lanka. Image by IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

On 12 May, anti-Muslim violence was allegedly sparked over a Facebook post by a Muslim trader in coastal Chilaw town located 80 km away from Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo. Within hours, mobs began attacking mainly Muslim-owned buildings and houses in other cities in the North Western province. By 13 May, around 500 houses, shops, mosques, and other religious centers were damaged, one person was killed, and ten others were seriously injured. The authorities imposed a curfew in the entire country until the morning of 14 May, amid fears of the attacks spreading.

The authorities also temporarily blocked a number of social media networks and messaging apps, including Facebook and WhatsApp, to control the situation.

This comes in the wake of the 21 April 2019 bomb attacks on churches and hotels during Easter celebrations, which killed 258 people and rattled the country. As details of the Easter events emerged, locally based radical Islamic groups were identified as the attackers and many of the perpetrators died in suicide bombings. Many feared that the local Muslim community would be targeted as a scapegoat for the terrorist acts, against the backdrop of century-long violence by the Sinhala majority against minority Tamils, Muslims, and Christians.

A Facebook post allegedly triggered the clashes

Tisaranee Gunasekara describes how the recent violence started in a blog post for Groundviews:

The outburst of anti-Muslim violence began on 12th Sunday in Chilaw (the inciting incident seemingly was a Facebook post by a Muslim trader with deficient English and a cavalier attitude towards punctuation; it was translated into Sinhala by a Sinhalese whose knowledge of English was even poorer). Within hours, the violence spread to other parts of the North Western Province and to Gampaha district. Undeterred by the curfew or the presence of the security forces, the mobs attacked and burnt, as they did in Digana in 2018, Aluthgama in 2014 and nationally during Black July.

As of now, the worse of the violence seems over. Even so, this is only a reprieve. If the perpetrators of this week’s riots are not brought before the law, fast, a new outburst is bound to follow.

The Facebook post quoted the Muslim trader as saying, “Don’t laugh more, 1 day u will cry,” which allegedly caused people to believe it was a warning of an impending attack.

Images and videos of the destruction caused by mob retaliation were being circulated on social media:

Asking for solidarity

There is an indication that hardline Buddhist groups were behind these anti-Muslim attacks. Police have arrested 78 suspects for the violence and unrest especially in Kurunegala, Kuliyapitiya, Nikaweratiya, and Chilaw. According to the authorities, the situation is now under control.

At Groundviews, Gitendra E Chitty asks Sri Lankans for peace and solidarity in these difficult times:

Sri Lanka must bring its communities together, no matter what race or creed. Because these attacks were not against Christians or tourists. These mobs were not against Muslims. They were against each and every one of us, and their damage to our mindsets and our morals and our sense of belonging is real – for Sinhalese, and Tamil, and Muslim, and Burgher, and every other ethnic and religious group.

Journalist Chathuri Dissanayake tweets:

IT specialist Afzal says:

by Rezwan at May 17, 2019 06:26 AM

In Hong Kong, the sexual connotation of Ikea's new tofu ice cream ad creates controversy

“Eating someone’s tofu” means verbal or physical sexual harassment

Online campaign #we love holding hands and hate eating tofu. Photo via Scholars Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity's facebook page.

An online advertisement about tofu ice cream released by Swedish furniture company Ikea in Hong Kong has stirred up controversy on social media.

The Chinese language online ad released on May 3 reads: “You can eat my tofu whenever you like”. On social media, it was attached with a note: “You guys can eat (my tofu), but please be gentle.” In Cantonese slang, “eating someone’s tofu” (食豆腐) means taking sexual advantage of a woman through verbal or physical harassment.

In response, feminist activist group Gender and Sexual Justice in Action demanded the company take down the ad and criticized its sexual connotation on Facebook:

…營造出一種女性嬌羞期待自己身體被「吃豆腐」的效果。而心領神會的大眾不論男女則爭相配合這一語境,表達對「吃豆腐」的躍躍欲試、急不及待。
性別化的信號釋放與對該信號的回應,便構成了一次符號的強化,女性的身體作為隨時可以侵犯甚至期待著被侵犯的對象,這一概念就這樣以看似毫不相關的「雪糕廣告」或者「笑話一則」的方式反覆被強化。

[The ad] generates the image of a woman wishing for her body to be eaten like tofu. The public gets what it means and expresses their urge to “eat someone’s tofu”. The sexual connotation was released and it attracts responses that reinforce the pre-existing gender-sexual relation. The ice-cream ad once again treats woman’s body as an object [desires] to be taken advantage of [by man].

The feminist group's comment attracted a huge number of remarks which attacked the group for reading too deeply into the ads and killing the joke. The furniture company also refused to take down the ads and replied to the group:

We have been working hard to communicate in a playful yet positive manner, so our customers may better understand our offers. The latest Tofu-flavored Sundae promotional post “speaks” for itself to emphasize the silky taste.

A majority of online voices sided with Ikea and more vocal attacks on the feminist group emerged. Deeply troubled by the online reactions, on May 9, a group of 20 civil society organizations jointly filed an official complaint to the Equal Opportunity Commission. The joint letter demanded that the commission investigate the incident:

While the popular furniture brand regards sexual harassment as a joke in its promotional materials, it encourages people not to regard sexual harassment as a serious problem, creating a hostile environment and making it harder for the victims to speak up.

On the social media front, another civil society group, Scholars Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity, launched an online campaign #we love holding hands and hate eating tofu.

The campaign calls upon same-sex friends or couples to upload a photo of themselves eating ice-cream while holding hands. The campaign aims to praise the culture of LGBT friendly ads and to express disapproval of Ikea’s tofu ads.

by Oiwan Lam at May 17, 2019 05:44 AM

May 16, 2019

Global Voices
Facebook posts trigger more arrests in Bangladesh, worrying netizens

The Digital Security Act criminalizes various types of online speech

Poet Henry Swaopon and Lawyer Imtiaz Mahmood.

Poet Henry Swapon and lawyer Imtiaz Mahmood. Collage from photos shared widely on social media.

Two people were arrested on May 14 and 15, for comments they had posted on Facebook. The arrests have sparked indignation and concern on social media.

The arrest of poet Henry Swapon

On May 14, poet and journalist Henry Swapon was arrested at his home in Barishal city, located in south central Bangladesh. He has been accused of violating Bangladesh's Digital Security Act.

A member of the small local Christian community, Swapon was previously sued, along with two brothers Alfred and Jewel Sarkar, for “hurting religious sentiments of both Christians and Muslims” on social media.

According to the Dhaka Tribune, Swapon wrote a post on Facebook criticizing Lawrence Subrata Howlader, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Barishal. The Bishop had elected to hold a scheduled cultural program at a local Catholic church on April 22, 2019, the day after the terror attacks in Sri Lanka. Swapon felt the Bishop should have postponed the festivities out of respect for hundreds of people killed in the attacks.

Other Christians were angry about the tone he took with the Bishop and some even sent him death threats. Swapon has been vocal in social media against all the injustices and corruption in his town.

Netizen Swakrito Noman wrote on Facebook:

বাংলাদেশে ধর্মানুভূতিতে আঘাতের ব্যবসাটা একচেটিয়া মুসলমান মৌলবাদীদের ছিল। এখন দেখছি খ্রিষ্টান মৌলবাদীরাও এই ব্যবসা শুরু করে দিয়েছে। আমার তো মনে হয় এই অনুভূতি ব্যবসায়ীরা একেকজন মানসিক রোগী। রাষ্ট্রের উচিত তার অসুস্থ নাগরিকদের সুচিকিৎসার ব্যবস্থা করা। কবি হেনরি স্বপনকে গ্রেপ্তারের তীব্র নিন্দা জানাই। তাঁর নিঃশর্ত মুক্তি চাই।

In Bangladesh, the tactics of attacking activists with the allegation of “hurting religious sentiments” had been a monopoly of the Muslim fundamentalists. Now we see that conservative Christians are also at it. I think those who feel this way hearing criticism are mentally sick. The state should arrange treatment for these sick individuals. We strongly condemn the arrest of poet Henry Swapon and demand his unconditional release.

The arrest of lawyer Imtiaz Mahmood

On the morning of 15 May, police arrested supreme court lawyer and writer Imtiaz Mahmud in a case filed in 2017 under the country's now-defunct Information and Communication Technology Act, in which a private citizen, Shafiqul Islam, alleged that one of Mahmood's Facebook posts had hurt religious sentiments and incited communal violence in Bangladesh's southeastern Chittagong region.

Imtiaz Mahmood secured an anticipatory bail when the case was originally brought, but a Khagrachhari court issued another arrest warrant against him in January 2019.

Mahmood had commented on ethnic tensions that arose after a Bengali motorcyclist was killed in Khagrachhari, prompting a group of Bengalis to torch a number of houses and shops of the indigenous people in the Rangamati area of Chittagong. Local sources told the Dhaka Tribune that police had taken no measures to control the situation.

Hundreds of similar lawsuits were filed from 2013 until 2018, when the ICT Act was effectively replaced by the Digital Security Act.

Writer Meher Afroz Shaon posted on Facebook:

তিনি পাহাড় ভালোবাসেন- পাহাড়ের মানুষগুলোকে ভালেবাসেন। ফেসবুকে তাদের নিয়ে লেখেন। তার ফেসবুক লেখায় কখনও ‘জালাও পোড়াও’ তো দেখিনি!

কোথাও কোনো একটা ভুল হচ্ছে..! বেশ বড় একটা ভুল… ভুলগুলোর অবসান হোক।

বি.দ্র: আচ্ছা- ফেসবুকে অশালীন গালাগালি করে যারা পোস্ট করে তাদের নামে মামলা হলেই কি এ্যারেস্ট ওয়ারেন্ট বের হয়!

He loves the mountains and the people who live there. He writes about their rights. I have never seen “violent words” in his writings.

There is something wrong… Something is very wrong. I hope the wrongs will be right soon.

PS: I have seen a lot of posts on Facebook which have violent words and slurs in them. If one sues them, is an arrest warrant issued immediately?

Many netizens have expressed condemnation against both arrests, with some demanding that the law should be repealed.

Expat Bangladeshi Leesa Gazi tweeted:

Journalist Probhash Amin wrote on Facebook:

কবি হেনরী স্বপনের পর অ্যাডভোকেট ইমতিয়াজ মাহমুদ। একে একে রুদ্ধ হচ্ছে মুক্তমত। সকল কালাকানুন বাতিল চাই। মতপ্রকাশের স্বাধীনতা চাই। কবি হেনরী স্বপন ও আইনজীবী ইমতিয়াজ মাহমুদের মুক্তি চাই।

After poet Henry Swapon, lawyer Imtiaz Mahmood (was arrested). Freedom of opinion is being restricted slowly. I want the repeal of all draconian acts. I want the freedom of expression. I want immediate release of Henry Swapon and Imtiaz Mahmood.

Despite concerns about its implications for freedom of expression, the Bangladeshi parliament approved the Digital Security Act in September 2018. The law replaced the notorious Information and  Technology Act, which had also been used as a tool for silencing critical speech online.

The Act criminalizes various types of online speech, ranging from defamatory messages to speech that “injures religious values or sentiments” introducing hefty fines. It also authorizes lengthy prison sentences for using the internet to create public unrest, and for “gathering, sending or preserving” classified government documents using a digital device. The Editors’ Council of Bangladesh said that the Act is “against the freedom guaranteed by the constitution, media freedom and freedom of speech.”

The Act also provides absolute power to law enforcement agencies to initiate investigations of anyone whose activities are deemed harmful or threating.

by Rezwan at May 16, 2019 03:25 AM

May 15, 2019

Global Voices Advocacy
Singapore parliament approves ‘anti-fake news’ law — will this curtail free speech?

The law allows government ministers to decide what is “false”.

Singapore parliament passed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act on May 8, 2019 amid concern that it contains provisions undermining free speech. Photo by Flickr user Teddy Sipaseuth (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Singapore’s parliament approved the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) on May 8, 2019.

Commonly known as the anti-fake news law, POFMA gives broad, unchecked powers to government ministers to determine what online information is “false” and demand that it be censored or corrected.

The Ministry of Law says the legislation will help stop the circulation of “deliberate online falsehoods” which it says are being used “to divide society, spread hate, and weaken democratic institutions.”

But media groups and human rights advocates see the law as another tool to suppress free speech in Singapore. The law will come into force in a national environment where free speech is already under threat, as seen in multiple recent defamation claims against independent media and commentators.

The proposal to make a law aimed at tackling false information was discussed during a parliamentary committee deliberation in 2018. POFMA was introduced in parliament on April 1, 2019. A total of 72 members of parliament voted in favor of the measure while nine opposed it.

Under the law, any government minister can compel website administrators, internet service providers, and even private chat groups to immediately correct or remove ‘fake news’ from their domains. But the law's definition of what counts as fake or false is remarkably vague.

Article 2 states that “a statement may be found to be false if it is false or misleading, whether wholly or in part, and whether on its own or in the context in which it appears.”

Worker’s Party Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera identified three other provisions of the law which could be used to curtail the right to freedom of expression:

Section 2 – defining what a Minister deems a misleading presentation of facts, not only false claims of fact, as correctable;

Section 4(f) defining harmful falsehoods as including those that diminish confidence in the government; and

Section 6, which establishes Ministers as the decision-makers of truth and falsehood in the first instance.

Oxford University’s Project Southeast Asia Thum Ping Tjin explained how the vague wording of Section 4(f) could lead to censorship:

If you criticize the government, even if it’s a legitimate criticism, they can argue that criticism affects public confidence in the government. This effectively criminalizes all criticism of the government.

In a press release, the Ministry of Law clarified that the law does not cover opinions, criticisms, satire or parody. It insisted that corrections are not criminal sanctions, and that “only those who act to deliberately undermine society using falsehoods will be subject to the criminal offences.”

The Ministry also emphasized that the law “will not affect most average citizens,” and that it is a vital piece of legislation, reasoning:

It will help ensure online falsehoods do not drown out authentic speech and ideas, and undermine democratic processes and society. The aim is to keep in place the conditions for Singaporeans, as individuals and civic society, to build a healthy and robust public discourse, informed by the facts.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam reiterated during the parliamentary deliberations that the law will only affect “falsehood, bots, trolls and fake accounts” and not free speech. He also argued that corrections ordered by a government minister contribute to transparency:

You put up an article, Government says this is not correct. You carry a correction (and) let your readers judge. What’s the problem? More transparency, the better.

In a letter sent to Singapore’s prime minister, UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye expressed his concern about some provisions in the measure.

…the Bill confers on select executive officials excessive authority to restrict, censor and punish online expression it designates as “false,” with limited opportunity for appeal.

…I am concerned that this overbroad definition of falsehood will lead to the criminalization and suppression of a wide range of expressive conduct, including criticism of the government, and the expression of unpopular, controversial or minority opinions.

Several journalists signed a joint statement detailing their apprehensions about the law:

By failing to distinguish between a malicious falsehood and a genuine mistake, the proposed legislation places an unnecessarily onerous burden on even journalists acting in good faith. Such a law will hinder rather than encourage the free flow of accurate information. News organisations might feel compelled to withhold important stories simply because certain facts cannot be fully ascertained.

Southeast Asian Press Alliance warned about how POFMA could further restrict press freedom in the country:

This bill clearly demonstrates that the government is setting itself up as the arbiter of truth and falsehood – a manifestly dangerous proposition, especially for a society that is already reeling from a raft of repressive laws.

Singapore-based journalist Kirsten Han, who is also a Global Voices contributor, added that POFMA might be another tool of the dominant People's Action Party (PAP) to silence government critics:

POFMA is thus likely to be yet another weapon in the PAP government’s arsenal against its critics…the legislation is worded broadly enough to give government ministers the option of wielding it selectively against particular targets.

PAP, the ruling party, has been in power in Singapore since the late 1950s.

Tech companies Facebook and Google also are worried about the implications of the new law. Google said the law could “hurt innovation and the growth of the digital information ecosystem” in Singapore and the southeast Asian region.

Jeff Paine of the Asia Internet Coalition said that the restrictive provisions of POFMA could be used as a model in other countries:

As the most far-reaching legislation of its kind to date, this level of overreach poses significant risks to freedom of expression and speech, and could have severe ramifications both in Singapore and around the world.

by Mong Palatino at May 15, 2019 07:56 PM

Dear European Commission: Don't let political parties use our data to manipulate the vote

Political parties can exploit privacy loopholes to collect sensitive data

“Propaganda” by Pawel Kuczynski. Image used with permission of the artist.

This opinion article was written by Valentina Pavel, a Mozilla Fellow at Privacy International and member of the Association for Technology and Internet, based in Romania. Opinion articles do not reflect the views of Global Voices.

When the news broke that Cambridge Analytica had harvested millions of Facebook users’ personal data — and then used that information to influence elections — the fallout was swift. The UK-based data mining firm closed its doors, Facebook faced global scrutiny, and people around the world learned how easily democratic elections could be hacked by abusing voters’ personal data.

In the time since the scandal broke, you would think that democracies in Europe would have used all the tools at their disposal — including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — to prevent similar wrongdoings in the future.

But the Regulation offers some “flexibilities” for how it is integrated into national law, allowing Member States to introduce some of their own rules. In some cases, rather than protecting individuals’ rights, these exceptions limit freedom of expression, erode privacy, and abet the spread of disinformation. This lack of uniformity in applying GDPR rules could lead to differences in the level of protection of personal data within Member States, including in the context of elections.

The GDPR, which went into force in May 2018, establishes a set of EU-wide rules for the collection, processing and storing of people's personal data.

Alongside other provisions, the rules generally require private companies and organizations to obtain individuals’ consent before collecting their personal data (such as name, email, phone number and other personal and contact information). The GDPR also enhances people's rights, enabling citizens to request a copy of their data.

Although the GDPR is an EU Regulation, national governments were allowed to set some of their own provisions into national law, paving the ways for some of the exemptions for political parties that are described here.

For example, in Romania, lawmakers have introduced an exemption that allows political parties and organisations to process personal data without consent and without protective measures against potential abuses, creating a sort of “wild west” of personal data. For example, the national post office, a public body, has begun offering political parties information about elderly people, enabling political parties to target them with personalised information during the electoral campaign.

Romanian lawmakers have also introduced excessive limits on the use of personal data for journalistic purposes, in a move that could interfere with investigative journalism and prevent public interest stories from being revealed.

We have yet to see the effects of this problematic exemption. But even before this exemption was introduced, data protection authorities showed that they could use the GDPR as a tool to silence the media.

In the RISE Project case, the Romanian Data Protection Authority approached journalists who were reporting on a politician's possible ties to a fraudulent company. The Authority asked the journalists for information about their sources and threatened them with large fines. A complaint has been filed with the European Commission, but no action has been taken.

Similar rules in other countries

Romania is not the only EU country where political parties have less restrictions for processing personal data. In Spain, the law allows political parties to collect personal information from public sources such as websites and social media. This problematic exemption has been raised with the European Commission since November last year, but six months on no concrete action has been taken by the EU body.

Spanish local elections took place at the end of April and voters will again go to the polls in late May for European elections. Privacy International’s research has shown that there are questions as to whether political parties’ use of personal data comply with the requirements set out by the Spanish Data Protection Authority.

In the UK, the law still permits political parties to process personal data revealing political opinions without obtaining users’ consent. We already know how sensitive this can be — even before Cambridge Analytica, there was Emma’s Diary, a baby care blog that sold personal data belonging to more than one million people to political parties. This is why, despite the provision in the UK law, political parties have been urged to publicly commit not to use the exemption provided in the law to target voters.

What do these exceptions mean for citizens?

Previous abuses of personal data indicate that these exemptions could lead to the following outcomes:

More voter manipulation: Romania’s exemption essentially legalizes Cambridge Analytica’s practices. As a result, political parties can release misleading advertisements that prey on users’ personal anxieties, and influence them to vote for (or against) certain candidates. Around the world, we have seen how online disinformation has played an outsized role in elections for the past few years. These mistakes from the past should provide justification for regulators to step in and prevent more abuses from happening, but this has not yet taken place.

Threats to individual privacy and security: If a political party or advertiser has your personal data, when they get hacked, so do you. By allowing these groups to collect and store vast amounts of personal data without safeguards, millions of Europeans will become more vulnerable to data breaches and security incidents.

Less access to information: In a world of pervasive tracking where tailor-made messages can be targeted at voters, developing a truly informed opinion can be difficult. How can you think critically when you learn only bits and pieces of the story and only receive messages that are designed specifically for your ears to hear? How can there still be free and informed dialogue?

There’s never been a more important time to implement data safeguards: Disinformation has reached new heights, and the EU parliamentary elections are in a few weeks time. It is critical to fix these harmful exceptions before the elections and before damage is done.

On 26 May, EU voters should pressure their parliamentary candidates to put privacy high on their agendas and preserve democratic processes. After the vote, when the new European Commissioners will be appointed, voters should ask them to firmly enforce GDPR and privacy protections.

Loose data processing provisions for political parties can weaken our democracies. The European Commission must do its job by ensuring that GDPR rules are consistent throughout Europe and that everyone's data is protected.

Learn how to turn off targeted advertising on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, with these guides created by Privacy International.

by Advox at May 15, 2019 07:54 PM

Global Voices
Singapore parliament approves ‘anti-fake news’ law — will this curtail free speech?

The law allows government ministers to decide what is “false”.

Singapore parliament passed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act on May 8, 2019 amid concern that it contains provisions undermining free speech. Photo by Flickr user Teddy Sipaseuth (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Singapore’s parliament approved the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) on May 8, 2019.

Commonly known as the anti-fake news law, POFMA gives broad, unchecked powers to government ministers to determine what online information is “false” and demand that it be censored or corrected.

The Ministry of Law says the legislation will help stop the circulation of “deliberate online falsehoods” which it says are being used “to divide society, spread hate, and weaken democratic institutions.”

But media groups and human rights advocates see the law as another tool to suppress free speech in Singapore. The law will come into force in a national environment where free speech is already under threat, as seen in multiple recent defamation claims against independent media and commentators.

The proposal to make a law aimed at tackling false information was discussed during a parliamentary committee deliberation in 2018. POFMA was introduced in parliament on April 1, 2019. A total of 72 members of parliament voted in favor of the measure while nine opposed it.

Under the law, any government minister can compel website administrators, internet service providers, and even private chat groups to immediately correct or remove ‘fake news’ from their domains. But the law's definition of what counts as fake or false is remarkably vague.

Article 2 states that “a statement may be found to be false if it is false or misleading, whether wholly or in part, and whether on its own or in the context in which it appears.”

Worker’s Party Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera identified three other provisions of the law which could be used to curtail the right to freedom of expression:

Section 2 – defining what a Minister deems a misleading presentation of facts, not only false claims of fact, as correctable;

Section 4(f) defining harmful falsehoods as including those that diminish confidence in the government; and

Section 6, which establishes Ministers as the decision-makers of truth and falsehood in the first instance.

Oxford University’s Project Southeast Asia Thum Ping Tjin explained how the vague wording of Section 4(f) could lead to censorship:

If you criticize the government, even if it’s a legitimate criticism, they can argue that criticism affects public confidence in the government. This effectively criminalizes all criticism of the government.

In a press release, the Ministry of Law clarified that the law does not cover opinions, criticisms, satire or parody. It insisted that corrections are not criminal sanctions, and that “only those who act to deliberately undermine society using falsehoods will be subject to the criminal offences.”

The Ministry also emphasized that the law “will not affect most average citizens,” and that it is a vital piece of legislation, reasoning:

It will help ensure online falsehoods do not drown out authentic speech and ideas, and undermine democratic processes and society. The aim is to keep in place the conditions for Singaporeans, as individuals and civic society, to build a healthy and robust public discourse, informed by the facts.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam reiterated during the parliamentary deliberations that the law will only affect “falsehood, bots, trolls and fake accounts” and not free speech. He also argued that corrections ordered by a government minister contribute to transparency:

You put up an article, Government says this is not correct. You carry a correction (and) let your readers judge. What’s the problem? More transparency, the better.

In a letter sent to Singapore’s prime minister, UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye expressed his concern about some provisions in the measure.

…the Bill confers on select executive officials excessive authority to restrict, censor and punish online expression it designates as “false,” with limited opportunity for appeal.

…I am concerned that this overbroad definition of falsehood will lead to the criminalization and suppression of a wide range of expressive conduct, including criticism of the government, and the expression of unpopular, controversial or minority opinions.

Several journalists signed a joint statement detailing their apprehensions about the law:

By failing to distinguish between a malicious falsehood and a genuine mistake, the proposed legislation places an unnecessarily onerous burden on even journalists acting in good faith. Such a law will hinder rather than encourage the free flow of accurate information. News organisations might feel compelled to withhold important stories simply because certain facts cannot be fully ascertained.

Southeast Asian Press Alliance warned about how POFMA could further restrict press freedom in the country:

This bill clearly demonstrates that the government is setting itself up as the arbiter of truth and falsehood – a manifestly dangerous proposition, especially for a society that is already reeling from a raft of repressive laws.

Singapore-based journalist Kirsten Han, who is also a Global Voices contributor, added that POFMA might be another tool of the dominant People's Action Party (PAP) to silence government critics:

POFMA is thus likely to be yet another weapon in the PAP government’s arsenal against its critics…the legislation is worded broadly enough to give government ministers the option of wielding it selectively against particular targets.

PAP, the ruling party, has been in power in Singapore since the late 1950s.

Tech companies Facebook and Google also are worried about the implications of the new law. Google said the law could “hurt innovation and the growth of the digital information ecosystem” in Singapore and the southeast Asian region.

Jeff Paine of the Asia Internet Coalition said that the restrictive provisions of POFMA could be used as a model in other countries:

As the most far-reaching legislation of its kind to date, this level of overreach poses significant risks to freedom of expression and speech, and could have severe ramifications both in Singapore and around the world.

by Mong Palatino at May 15, 2019 07:48 PM

Rising Voices
Meet Roy Boney, the host of the @NativeLangsTech Twitter account for May 16-22

Photo provided by Roy Boney.

In 2019 as part of a social media campaign to celebrate linguistic diversity online, Native American and First Nations language activists and advocates will be taking turns managing the @NativeLangsTech Twitter account to share their experiences with the revitalization and promotion of African languages. This profile post is about Roy Boney (@royboney) and what he plans to discuss during his week as host.

Rising Voices: Please tell us about yourself.

My Cherokee name is ᎧᏂᎦ ᎪᎳᎭ (Kaniga Kolaha). I am a second language learner of Cherokee and love art and technology. I am the Cherokee Language Program Manager for Cherokee Nation Education Services.

RV: What is the current status of your language on the internet and offline?

The Cherokee language is supported by iOS, Android, Mac OS, Windows, Google Search, Google Maps, and Gmail. You can use our language on all the social media platforms, too. There are approximately 2,000 fluent Cherokee speakers still living.

RV: On what topics do you plan to focus during the week that you’ll manage the @NativeLangsTech Twitter account?

I will highlight the various language revitalization efforts at Cherokee Nation such as our online classes, Immersion School, Master Apprentice Program, and community programs with a focus on tech.

RV: What are the main motivations for your digital activism for your language? What are your hopes and dreams for your language?

I grew up in a family of first language Cherokee speakers. Many of those family members have passed away and I see the effect their loss is having on our community. I want to hear our language spoken everyday again by all ages in our community.

by Rising Voices at May 15, 2019 09:28 AM

Global Voices
Hong Kong multimedia project commemorates the 30th anniversary of June 4 massacre in Beijing

Image from “I am a journalist, my June 4 story”

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the 1989 Beijing June 4 Massacre, a group of 60 Hong Kong journalists has decided to document the event with a multimedia publication project: I am a Journalist, My June 4 Story.

It has been 30 years since the rise and fall of the 89′ Democracy Movement (八九民运) in China. The 50-day democratic movement led by students ended with a brutal military crackdown on June 4. A confidential US government document, revealed in 2014, reported that a Chinese internal assessment estimated that at least 10,454 civilians were killed.

Within China, the incident is a political taboo and cannot be mentioned. While in Hong Kong, citizens have attended annual candlelight vigils to commemorate the victims for the past 30 years.

The “I am a Journalist, My June 4 Story” project stresses the role of journalists as witnesses to history and highlights their obligation to tell the truth and share their insights:

It has been thirty years since the June Fourth Massacre. The dead remain unnamed, protesters persecuted and killers at large. Facts are being distorted and rewritten so that the young generation will never know. No journalist should let this happen; in particular those who witnessed the killings. Not only should they retell the tragedy but also their insights into it. That's the obligation of every witness of history.

The 60 journalist's accounts of the incident will be published in book form and released on 4 June 2019. The project will also release one video interview every day starting from May 5. Below is the project's trailer:

The first journalist to talk about the incident in the video series is Ching Cheong. 30 years ago, he was the deputy editor-in-chief of Wen Wei Pao, a Chinese government-sponsored newspaper in Hong Kong. To everyone's surprise, the paper published a blank-editorial to express discontent after Beijing issued martial law on 19 May 1989. Ching Cheong revealed that though people like him anticipated that the older generation in Chinese Communist Party would choose “to kill 100 thousand people in exchange for 20 years of stability”, the newsroom was outraged to see the announcement of martial law:

Another video testimony was given by Leung Wai Man, a Singtao evening news journalist who still keeps a voice record of what she had gone through from June 3 to June 4:

Wong Kan Tai, another journalist from Wen Wei Pao, took leave from the news outlet in May 1989 and traveled to Beijing as an independent journalist so he could record the event from his own perspective. He re-visited Beijing in 1998 after 10 years to continue digging for the truth. He believes the incident is not over and there is still a lot of news to cover.

The project was funded by “People Will Not Forget Foundation” which is managed by Hong Kong Journalists Association.

by Oiwan Lam at May 15, 2019 04:22 AM

May 14, 2019

Rising Voices
Meet Siya Masuku, the host of the @DigiAfricanLang Twitter account for May 15 – 21

Photo provided by Siya Masuku.

In 2019 as part of a social media campaign to celebrate linguistic diversity online, African language activists and advocates will be taking turns managing the @DigiAfricanLang Twitter account to share their experiences with the revitalization and promotion of African languages. This profile post is about Siya Masuku (@siyamasuku) and what he plans to discuss during his week as host.

Rising Voices: Please tell us about yourself.

Soweto-born Siya Masuku ran a 113% successful online crowdfunding campaign in July and August 2016 to launch his own publishing platform, Siyafunda Online. The alphabet book, Siyafunda: isiZulu (2016), has colourful images of lino printed animals. It is available with English translations in print and digital formats.

Siya has collaborated with Book Dash South Africa to illustrate children’s books; UDaisy Omangalisayo (2015) and Isitsha Samakhekhe Masiwe (2016). He recently collaborated with Puku Children’s Literature Foundation to illustrate and design the books, Mosidi (2019) and The Wolf and the Fox (2019).

A recipient of the David Koloane Arts Writing Award (2017), Siya is a self-published comics writer and illustrator of uNjabulo: emkhathini (2017) and uLanga (2019).

RV: What is the current status of your language on the internet and offline?

Zulu, a culture of the Zulu people (amaZulu) should not be confused with isiZulu (the language). There are between 10 – 12 million isiZulu speakers in Southern Africa. IsiZulu is the most widely spoken home language in South Africa. It became one of South Africa’s 11 official languages in 1994. There are at least 35 indigenous languages in South Africa.

English remains the more commonly used language across the internet. However, platforms which offer services by isiZulu tutors, courses and programs are accessible online. Siyafunda Online is one such platform.

RV: On what topics do you plan to focus during the week that you’ll manage the @DigiAfricanLang Twitter account?

Some of the topics in mind

  • Narratives – no longer telling stories about hut dwellers and cattle herders, it’s now stories about tech savvy township and suburban people
  • Pronunciation as the primary way to learn a language
  • Phonics – using alliteration, assonance and repetition to learn isiZulu
  • Language nuances – clan names, metaphors, ideophones
  • Innovation – provocative artwork, new stories (untranslated), learning whilst having fun (launches, magic, poetry), improvising (motion comics, gaming)
  • Vocabulary – new words to learn. Some are borrowed based on how we exchange information today
  • Animal vs Human languages in comics – “humans speaking human; animals speaking animal”
  • Message – stories which continuously ask questions, probing the reader to conclude or do more research, unsung heroes, mischief, dreaming, curiosity, parenting, friendship, caring, love, hope

RV: What are the main motivations for your digital activism for your language? What are your hopes and dreams for your language?

I hope indigenous languages continue to evolve. They are forced to, regardless, in order to stay alive. It is when we shift our perspective from a preservation-based approach to one which is associated with boldness and curiousness that the language and its people open up to new possibilities.

IsiZulu has nuances other languages cannot interpret. Let us let it take shape naturally in a single story through print, song, performance art, gaming, augmented reality and other mediums of modern communication.

by Rising Voices at May 14, 2019 10:17 PM

Global Voices
Chased by dogs on Google Street View Japan

“The dog seems to be saying ‘wait for me!'”

Papiko wants to eat little birds

A dog in Japan. Image by Nevin Thompson.

A Google Street View screen capture of a cute dog has gone viral on Japanese Twitter. The image of the adorable hound has been retweeted 100,000 times and prompted a hunt for exactly where in Japan the image can be found.

In May, a person with the Twitter handle ‘Reoemon’ (れおえもん) shared a short video that appears to show a small dog chasing the vehicle capturing imagery for Google Map's Street View.

I'm being chased by a dog on Google Maps!

(Be sure to click the ‘play’ icon in the tweet above)

Others soon took notice of the tweet, and tried to track the dog down for themselves on Street View.

I found the dog!!  (*`・ω・´)ノ

I found it! The dog seems to be saying “wait for me!” 💕\( ˙꒳​˙ \三/ ˙꒳​˙)/💕

I love this! ✨

The dog can be found on Google Maps on Tanegashima, an island off of Kagoshima Prefecture in Kyushu, in southwestern Japan

Some people posted images of other dogs they've found on Street View, that also seem to be chasing after the Google Maps car.

I also recently found a dog that appears to be chasing (the Street View car).

And, this being the Internet, others found Street View images of cats in Japan.

Cats in front of my mom's store on Chidori Island (Nagasaki).

by Nevin Thompson at May 14, 2019 09:56 PM

Bolsonaro's new gun decree could put reporters in danger, says journalism association

Bolsonaro signs gun decree on May 7 while congressmen celebrate with finger-gun gestures. Photo: Marcos Corrêa, Brazil's government press, CC-BY 2.0

Long before he launched his presidential bid, Jair Bolsonaro's trademark gesture was making imaginary guns with his fingers. Losing Brazil's strict gun control laws was one of his major campaign promises, and now he's trying to deliver it. In January, he signed a decree making it slightly easier for civilians to own a gun, and on May 7, he signed another one easing restrictions even more for 20 different types of professionals.

Those are social workers, traffic agents, lawyers, truck drivers, sitting politicians, and crime reporters, among others. Bolsonaro said during the signing ceremony that the decree is “just within the edges of the law.” “Whatever possibilities the law permits, we went until its limits,” he declared.

The Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) issued a statement demanding the government to revoke the section referring to press workers. It says:

Nos 16 anos em que a Abraji  oferece treinamentos de segurança a jornalistas em parceria com organizações internacionais como o International News Safety Institute (INSI), o porte de armas jamais foi apresentado como forma de proteção.
Há ações mais indicadas para aumentar a segurança de quem se arrisca para informar a população, como a estruturação adequada do Programa de Proteção a Defensores de Direitos Humanos, Ambientalistas e Comunicadores.

In the 16 years in which Abraji has provided security training to journalists, in partnership with international organizations such as the International News Safety Institute (INSI), carrying guns was never presented as a form of self-protection.
There are more appropriate actions to increase the safety of those risking themselves to inform the people, such as more robust support to the Protection Program for Human Rights Defenders, Environmentalists, and Communicators.

The statement quotes Abraji’s former director, Fernando Molica, who says that “if carrying a gun ensured physical integrity, we wouldn’t have so many cops murdered in the country.” To Molica, the decree is another way of transferring the state's responsibilities to the people:

Com uma canetada, Bolsonaro transformou repórteres em alvo dos bandidos – os caras vão passar a achar que todos nós estamos armados e, que portanto, podemos atirar contra eles, é bem mais provável que eles disparem na nossa direção. Assaltantes terão mais um motivo para abordar caminhoneiros: além de carga a ser roubada, eles, em tese, terão armas que poderão ser arrecadadas.

With the stroke of a pen, Bolsonaro has transformed reporters into targets of criminals, who will assume that we are all armed and might shoot them, making it far more likely that they will shoot against us. Robbers will have another reason to attack truck drivers: besides stealing the load, they will, in theory, have guns to collect as well.

Igor Gielow, a reporter with Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, writes that the threats posed by the decree might have an effect on conflict coverage in Brazil:

O argumento da autodefesa fica prejudicado em um tiroteio: ou você estará de um lado, ou de outro. Levando a interpretação ao limite, o decreto quase impõe que repórteres policiais sejam “embedded”, ou seja, acompanhem as tropas do Estado, como acontece em quase todas as guerras.
Isso seria fatal para a diversidade de pontos de vista necessária a uma cobertura de conflito urbano no Brasil.

The self-defense argument loses its standing when we consider the situation of a shooting: you will be either on one side or another. Taking this interpretation to the limit, the decree practically forces crime reporters to be embedded, that is, to accompany the state's troops, which is the case in most war reporting. That could kill the diversity of perspectives that are crucial in coverages of urban conflict in Brazil.

Shortly after Bolsonaro signed the order, Brazil's lower house speaker Rodrigo Maia said Congress may still veto a few sections of its text:

A gente precisa discutir a questão das armas, a gente não pode fazer uma interpretação excessiva e ampliar ainda mais a violência que existe no Brasil. Vamos avaliar junto com a nossa assessoria sobre o que pode ter sido usurpado e dar atenção a esse tema que tem mobilizado a sociedade brasileira nas últimas horas

We need to discuss the gun issue, we cannot make an excessive interpretation of it and amplify the violence that already exists in Brazil. We will evaluate, together with our consultants, to what extent the decree usurped [the law] and give attention to this subject that has mobilized Brazilian society in the last few hours.

According to NGO Reporters Without Borders, among the 66 journalists that were killed worldwide in 2018, four were Brazilians. A report by Article 19 from November 2018 says: “Journalists and communicators in Brazil are being killed with impunity” and that “bloggers and broadcasters in small towns face the greatest risk of being killed for their investigations.”

The report highlights that “the majority of murders appear to have been carried out by hired hitmen, on the orders of others.” None of the four murdered Brazilian journalists covered crime. Regional director of Article 19 for South America Laura Tresca says in the report:

The death of a communicator has wider implications for Brazilian society. The victims in this report were silenced for speaking out about corruption and crime. Their murders create a climate of fear and self-censorship that prevents others from holding our politicians, authorities and corporations to account.

by Fernanda Canofre at May 14, 2019 08:55 PM

Harvard Law Library Innovation Lab
The CAP Roadshow

In 2019 we embarked on the CAP Roadshow. This year, we shared the Caselaw Access Project at conferences and workshops with new friends and colleagues.

Between February and May 2019, we made the following stops at conferences and workshops:

Next stop on the road will be UNT Open Access Symposium from May 17 - 18 at University of North Texas College of Law. See you there!

On the road we were able to connect the Caselaw Access Project with new people. We were able to share where data comes from, what kinds of questions we can ask when we have the machine readable data to do it, and all the new ways that you’re all building and learning with Caselaw Access Project data to see the landscape of U.S. legal history in new ways.

The CAP Roadshow doesn’t stop here! Share Caselaw Access Project data with a colleague to keep the party going.

CAP Roadshow

by Kelly Fitzpatrick at May 14, 2019 12:00 AM

May 13, 2019

Rising Voices
Building community networks in Italy: Hacker-led experiments to bridge the digital divide

Photo provided by Claudio Pisa and used with permission.

Rising Voices (RV) is partnering with the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) which produced the 2018 Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch) focusing on community networks defined as “communication networks built, owned, operated, and used by citizens in a participatory and open manner.” Over the next several months, RV will be republishing versions of the country reports highlighting diverse community networks from around the world.

This country report was written by Leonardo Maccari and Claudio Pisa from the University of Trento, CNIT and ninux.org. Please visit the GISWatch website for the full report which is also available under a CC BY 4.0 license.

This report describes community networks on the Italian scene, with particular attention to ninux.org, which has the largest coverage in the country and the longest history. Ninux started as a “geek experiment”, and maintained this approach throughout its evolution.

This gave it a specific ethical and ideological purpose, and allowed it to actively contribute to the spirit and development of the European community network movement. Its approach, although not focused on internet access, was successful, especially in urban areas, in a period in which wireless technologies were expanding, and the Italian hacker scene was very active. Today, however, we are seeing a decrease in interest and energy compared to other European initiatives.

The report describes ninux.org's trajectory, while also considering other internet-based initiatives in Italy that are expanding their user base. It describes two possible futures for ninux, which may be emblematic of the hard decisions that many involved in the early community network movement worldwide might face.

Policy, economic and political background

Three features of Italy are worth describing to introduce the context:

  1. Italy is one of the European countries with the largest digital divide (in 2017 only 69.5% of Italian families had access to the internet through fixed broadband, according to the Italian National Statistical institute). This is probably due to the fact that the Italian population is scattered over a large area: 55% of its people live in cities and towns with fewer than 50,000 inhabitants, and about 18% in towns with fewer than 5,000. The country also has an extremely variegated geography, made up of flatlands and many mountainous and hilly zones. While this diversity is culturally astonishing, it is a nightmare from the point of view of developing infrastructures.
  2. Italy is one of the countries in the European Union that was hit most severely by the economic crisis in the last decade. According to the National Institute for Statistics, in 2006 the number of people living in absolute poverty was about 1.9 million, while by 2016 this had grown to 4.7 million.
  3. The Italian population is ageing, and declining in number. Italy has one of the highest rates of people (especially young people) emigrating to foreign countries and one of the lowest number of people with a university degree.

These statistics are important because ninux.org emerged in the early 2000s as a community where hackers (primarily young and educated males) engaged in the creation of an alternative internet, with internal rules derived from their own ethical and political vision. Today this approach faces the challenges of a society that is more unequal, precarious, uncertain, and less educated, especially when it comes to young people. Can an advanced, progressive hacker experiment thrive in a declining society?

The sticker promoting the early ninux community network.

The history of ninux.org

Ninux.org was started in Rome in the early 2000s and was the initiative of a computer science engineering student, Nino Ciurleo. Nino had grown technically in the ham radio community as well as the Italian hacker scene and was influenced by the punk do-it-yourself attitude. One day he read about the Seattle Wireless community network in a magazine, liked the idea, and decided to use his personal web page – ninux.org (a pun on “Nino” and “Linux”) – which was hosted on a server in his room, to search for other enthusiasts to help him build a wireless community network in Rome. To help spread the word, stickers were printed and placed around the city. After a couple of years, the ninux network was bootstrapped, and the core of the network, composed of three nodes, was up and running. Many people with different (but still technical) backgrounds were then joining the ninux mailing list and meetings. The motivations for joining the community ranged from socio-political reasons, to helping to bridge the digital divide, a desire to learn by doing, down to pure curiosity.

In spring 2006, a handful of ninux members participated in the Wireless Community Weekend in Berlin, getting a grasp of the philosophy of the Freifunk community network and acquiring skills in mesh networking and open source firmware operation and development. Back in Rome, these skills were developed by the core members of the community and put into practice. However, some obstacles were in the way: the hilly topography of Rome and the unclear legal framework for outdoor wireless networks.

In 2009 the ninux community organised the first “Ninux Day”, a two-day event to which several community network members were invited: community network members from Freifunk, guifi.net and Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network (AWMN), developers from the OpenWrt community, and other enthusiasts from all over Europe gathered in Rome to hack together and give and attend talks. The most interesting outcomes from the ninux perspective were the enthusiastic response from other European community networks and the understanding that Europe has a common legal framework, which potentially allowed ninux to circumvent what appeared to be the legal limitations for outdoor wireless in Italy.

Just some weeks before Ninux Day 2009, some ninux members attended the Wireless Battle Mesh v2 in Brussels, an event to build a wireless mesh network and test the performance of different wireless mesh network routing protocols. This led to ninux organising the Wireless Battle Mesh v3 at a campsite next to a lake near Rome in 2010, replicating the success of the Ninux Day event and also involving a range of different people with different skills.

Since then, many things have changed. Ninux is now a community with about 350 nodes scattered around Italy. It is an integral part of the European community network movement: it hosts services, it has participated in European research projects, it has its own “autonomous system”, and it is well known among Italian hackers and geeks.

A community of hackers

One of the key characteristics of ninux is its hacker nature. In the period 2013-2015 (when Italian legal limitations were no longer in place and Snowden’s revelations were under the spotlight), ninux almost doubled the number of its nodes and hit the news in many mainstream newspapers and websites. Mesh networks were depicted as a remedy not only for the digital divide, but also for surveillance. Besides a certain degree of journalistic hype, the truth was that around 2010, both the technical and ethical propositions of community networks were extremely advanced. The idea that a mesh network, being technically distributed, could enable the creation of a communication platform with a governance structure inspired innovation and advancements in many directions. Today, the academic community recognises the value of that “avant-garde” period, and community networks have been invited by national and international institutions to document their activities over that time.

It is fundamental to understand that without both the technical and social passion of the community network activists, this would not be possible. Hackers made it possible to develop and share the tools that once were only available to them. Today these have been made available to communities with very few technical skills. If a rural community with few technical skills can now use LibreMesh to set up a network, it is thanks to the community network hackers who have worked hard over the last two decades for this to be possible.

Today, the expansion of community networks is remarkable; some of them have reached tens of thousands of nodes, and many new communities have emerged especially in the Global South. But what happens when the community network movement starts to lose its appeal to hackers? In the case of ninux, the technical nature of the community has always been a strong driving force. When the community's interest in the emerging technical issues decreased, fewer and fewer people participated in the community.

It may be that the context had a large impact on this evolution. For instance, in the last couple of years, at least five key people, and among the most technically skilled that had participated in the community, simply left Italy as a consequence of the social situation described above. A society that is more unequal and in which it is hard to find economic stability produces isolation and disincentivises participation, and ninux is probably also part of a general decline of Italian community organisations. On the other hand, it is also true what one “ninuxer” said in a meeting in 2017: “Wireless is not cool anymore.”

While 10-15 years ago wireless technology was on the rise and attracted the attention of hackers, today, wireless is taken for granted; it is a “commodity”, and young hackers are more attracted by other fields (like blockchain, the internet of things, etc.). Similarly, networking, open source and Linux hacking were original and new in early 2000s, while today students studying information and communications technology (ICT) in universities often acquire those skills while studying. Some people joined ninux as a personal investment in themselves, which later on turned out to be a career in ICTs. It may then be that the specific combination of technical novelty and the status of a “liberation technology” enjoyed by wireless in the early 2000s that made community networks (and ninux) flourish may not be present anymore. It is reasonable to think that ninux, while still being a vivid community (especially on some of the smaller Italian islands), needs to change its principles in order to continue to exist in the years to come. 

A parenthesis: Other community networks in Italy

There are several initiatives that may fit the description of a “community network” on the Italian peninsula. Projects like Progetto Neco (Neco Project), GalliaNetwork, Reti Senza Frontiere (literally “Networks Without Borders”) and Senza Fili Senza Confini (SFSC, or, literally, “No Wires, No Limits”) are small to medium initiatives that may be called “community ISPs”. Progetto Neco (Neco stands for “network community”) is based in Vietri di Potenza, a town with less than 3,000 residents in the south of Italy. The project was started in 2008 by a group of local hackers with the aim of bridging the digital divide and today has 36 nodes serving roughly 230 families. An association was created, and associates pay a monthly fee to access the network services and the internet. GalliaNetwork is another community ISP, located in the town of Canezza in the north of Italy. Similarly to Neco, it was created in 2011 by a group of residents who had no internet access, before expanding into a network serving several surrounding towns. A group of five to six enthusiasts run the network and offer several services, such as website hosting, a local cloud and internet access. Reti Senza Frontiere is a small association born in 2015 in the countryside outside Rome. It connects a few families to the internet in another digitally divided area.

SFSC stands out from the others for its evolution and the media coverage it has received worldwide. It is another association whose primary purpose is to fight the digital divide in an area north of the city of Turin called Verrua Savoia. From there, it expanded to several small villages isolated from the main city by the mountains. SFSC started as a research experiment led by the Polytechnic University of Turin, one of the most important technical universities in Italy, which had already used a customised wireless device to connect an isolated town. After that first experimental phase, the initiative turned into an organisation, and now serves (according to its president and founder Daniele Trinchero) about 5,000 families in the region for a fraction of the market cost of commercial ADSL service.

The organisation is rooted in the territory and organises courses, skills sharing, and digital literacy activities. In 2014 it was featured in The New York Times, and later on in Italian newspapers, which gave high visibility to the project. Compared to the other local initiatives, SFSC had the advantage of being born from one of the most important and organised universities in Italy. This offered the necessary technical skills together with network competence and contacts that made it easier to solve the initial challenges to bootstrap the network.

All these experiences tell us that the model of a community network is welcomed in rural areas, in which there is a need for low-cost access to the internet. With their own differences, these networks are growing, or have reached a state in which they could grow more, but are limited by the lack of human resources to make the network scale.

Ninux always tried not to be perceived as an ISP, but as an experimental, hacker network. The reason for this is that ninux was born in an urban area and many people contacted the community hoping to replace their ISP with ninux for free. This utilitarian attitude was discouraged by the community, which clearly stated that while ninux has several gateways to the internet, it was not there just to replace commercial ISPs. Rather, it was a philosophy, a movement that was political, practical and experimental.

Today ninux has expanded into rural areas with poor connectivity. On some islands, its primary purpose is actually utilitarian: to overcome the digital divide. But the original spirit still persists.

Conclusions

The intrinsic innovative value of community networks is their mix of technical and social innovation. Technology (low-cost wireless solutions and open source software to run networks) enabled a new social behaviour, which challenged the status quo in service provision and the monopolies enjoyed by the telecommunications industry. This is true in areas where there was simply no internet access, and community networks showed how this was possible, but also in areas where the big telcos – whose ethical fingerprint is questionable – have market share. We cannot untangle the technical and the social advances, as the second is enabled by the first, and feeds back into it. Without hackers, there would be no ninux, no Freifunk, no guifi.net, no LibreMesh (just to name a few) and in general, no community networks. If the whole community network movement turns into a “connectivity factory”, its original and innovative push will be strongly reduced.

The question that is still open today is how to couple the technical innovation of community networks with the social impact that social enterprises are achieving in other fields (e.g. food cooperatives, to name just one movement that is very active in Italy). A hacker network is, by definition, a moving target, an experimental infrastructure that could be subject to tests, changes, and failures. A community ISP, instead, tries to offer a service comparable to the service that a commercial ISP offers. When the ninux community faced the chance of moving to an “in production” network it reacted without much interest. Many people in the community were there to experiment, not to run an ISP. And in fact, running an ISP is a tough job; and most of all, it is a job.

For more information regarding action steps for Italy, please visit the full report on the GISWatch website.

This republished post was prepared by Suzanne Lehn.

by Association for Progressive Communications at May 13, 2019 03:32 PM

A new rotating Twitter campaign @NativeLangsTech will amplify the voices of Native language activists

The project will work with Native American and First Nations language communities in the US and Canada

llustration mashup created by Eddie Avila, utilizing the bird icon by Sara Novovitch, ES and the languages icon by Erik Arndt at the Noun Project.

Starting on Thursday, May 16, a rotating roster of Native American and First Nations language digital activists from Canada and the United States will take control of the @NativeLangsTech Twitter account. Coordinated by Rising Voices and the Endangered Languages Project, this social media campaign is taking place within the context of the International Year of Indigenous Languages 2019 and will provide a space for diverse voices from across the region to tell stories of their experiences with language revitalization.

Throughout 2019, different activists will take turns at @NativeLangsTech sharing their perspectives on what their native language means to them and their communities. These activists are all working to promoting the use of their languages in new domains like the internet, which presents many opportunities and challenges. But there is also an important offline component to their activism related to long-standing histories and contemporary contexts that affect the vitality of Native and First Nations languages.

Similar initiatives using Twitter as a collaborative medium are underway in Latin America (@ActLenguas) and in Africa (@DigiAfricanLang), but this project will focus on languages in the United States and Canada.

Response to calls for participation has been extremely positive, as the roster for the first several weeks has already been filled. We are also conducting outreach to invite others to take part.

The participants

Some participants will share their own personal stories related to their work with language revitalization with a special focus on the role that the internet and technology is playing in this important work. While others are representing their organizations, Tribes, or Nations, which have a long standing commitment to ensure that their language continues for future generations. Some of their revitalization strategies include the adoption and adaptation of digital technologies to meet their needs.

All are eager to share these stories with people who may know very little about Native or First Nations languages in the U.S. and Canada, as well as with other communities and activists who will see how these stories echo their own experiences, but also learn about other parts of the region and their unique contexts.

Participants who have signed on to manage the account include:

This is just a sampling of some of people at the center of this campaign to share stories of critical language-related work happening across the U.S. and Canada. Visit the campaign page to see the current schedule, and stay tuned for short blog posts with profiles of each host.

This social media project was inspired by initiatives such as @IndigenousX in Australia, whose founder, Luke Pearson, provided important guidance in the planning stages. Global Voices’ own Instagram account is also managed by a rotating roster of community members and has been an excellent way to gain insights our diverse membership and the places where they live.

You can support this campaign by following the @NativeLangsTech account throughout 2019, and by retweeting messages you find inspiring of interesting. Hosts are also eager for feedback and will do their best to respond.

by Rising Voices at May 13, 2019 01:56 PM

Global Voices
‘No votes until the road is built': why some Goan villagers are boycotting the Indian elections

The voters are boycotting polls to get their issues addressed

Screenshot from YouTube video by VideoVolunteers.

Screenshot from YouTube video by VideoVolunteers.

This post was written by Grace Jolliffe and originally appeared on Video Volunteers, an award-winning international community media organisation based in India. A slightly edited version is published below as part of a content-sharing agreement.

While India is going through a major general election spread over seven phases from 11 April to 19 May 2019 in order to elect its 17th parliament (Lok Sabha), some Indian voters have taken the unusual step of boycotting the electoral process.

In Goa, a southeastern state of India, residents of a tribal hamlet in Cancona block (district subdivision), Marlem Village refused to vote on 23 April during the third phase of the general election, alleging that the government had been oblivious to the problems of their village. Their main grievance is that basic facilities, such as proper roads and water supply, have not been provided by the government.

A video by Community Correspondent Devidas Gaonkar, a member of the aboriginal shepherd tribe of Goa called Velip, documented the protests of the villagers:

In this video, Pandurang Gaonkar, a resident from Marli village, states that:

Tirwal to Marlem is a three-quilometres road stretch, which is incomplete. To date, no action has been taken by the authorities. They only make false promises, but no implementation. For this reason, we haven’t cast our votes.

The residents of Marlem have been living in this village for more than 20 years. In 1968, the Forest Department declared Marlem village part of a wildlife sanctuary. This makes the construction of roads, or any development work in this area, a rather complex issue. According to reports, an underground power cabling project for carrying electricity to the area had been initially approved, but when digging work commenced, it was soon halted following objections coming from the state Forest Department.

Another source of frustration for the local population is the absence of proper roads. One has to navigate a 2.8 km unpaved and broken road to reach the first household at Marlem from the main road. Finally, the supply of electricity and safe drinking water remain a challenge for the villagers.

Having publicly and repeatedly voiced their complaints, but failing to get any answers, the residents of Marlem, as well as residents from two other villages decided not to vote in the elections in order to draw the attention of the authorities towards their issues. “Polling officials came to talk to us, but our decision of not to vote, still stands”, added Pandurang.

Isidore Fernandes, an opposition (Indian National Congress) member of the legislative assembly of Cancona, also met the locals. After hearing the grievances he assured his support in favour of their agitation. “It is important for any government to provide road, water, and electricity to people. Till now, all government officials have neglected these facilities in Marlem Village”, stated Fernandes.

Boycotting elections is now becoming a way of protest, although voting is not mandatory in India. Apart from Goa, villages in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, the western state of  Maharashtra, and the eastern state of Odisha are employing this method in order to get pressing issues addressed by the authorities in charge.

So far, none of those boycotts seem to have translated into action on the side of government. Ultimately, voters are adopting such tactics as a show of frustration towards officials and politicians who often reach out to neglected communities only before elections, in hope of securing their votes, but fail to deliver once the elections are over.

In the end, if boycotting elections does not heed changes in society, what else can members of neglected communities do to get the attention of those supposed to hear them and take proper action?

by VideoVolunteers at May 13, 2019 07:51 AM

May 11, 2019

Doc Searls
Here’s how Google can save podcasting from getting siloed

Give podcasting full respect by making it a search heading.

Bing should do it too. Also DuckDuckGo. In fact all search engines should make podcasts a search heading. Simple as that.

If they make podcasts a search heading, they’ll make podcasting too big a category to fracture into a forest of silos.

This doesn’t mean Apple, Spotify and others can’t continue to offer subscriptions and other forms of aggregation. Or that ListenNotes will go out of business. (Though that’s a risk. Remember Technorati?)

Anyway, this idea just came to me. It’s a bit of a riff off a concern Dave Winer has had for some time. (Sample here.) What do the rest of ya’ll think?

by Doc Searls at May 11, 2019 04:48 PM

All hail the Houston Rockets—especially next year

I thought the Rockets were great in last night’s game—and say that as a Warriors fan. (I even had season tickets back in the Run TMC era, when tickets were still affordable).

The Rockets’ problem was that the Warriors were greater, and it wasn’t just because SuperSteph showed up in the second half. Basketball is a team game, and the difference was the Warriors’ bench.

The Warriors have been getting shit for their bench all season; but the bench played great. They showed why the Warriors are in fact a great team, and not just the Splash Brothers + KD.

Look at the stats, not the highlight reel. The whole bench was +14 for the game. Two of the five players scoring in double-figures came off the bench. (Three of the five if you count Andre Iguodala, filling in for the injured KD.) The leading bench scorer was Kevon Looney. (Yes, that’s his name. And he’s actually good.) Shawn Livingston was terrific.

Here’s how to tell how good the Rockets really are: Nearly every other franchise in the league, other than the Warriors, would gladly trade their whole team for the Rockets. And maybe every team. Even Milwaukee. And hell, maybe even the Warriors.

I say that because the Rockets best strategy in the offseason is to wait for the Warriors to break up. The chance that both Klay and KD will stay is small, though it’s possible. Steph is still great, but he’s passing the top of his career arc. Draymond isn’t who he was two years ago. Iguodala and Livingston are ready to retire. If the Warriors partially disband this summer, the best team in the West will be the Rockets. Milwaukee will still be the best in the East, though Toronto and Philly will still be excellent, especially if Kawhi stays put. (Boston won’t suck, but needs at least a partial rebuild: something they can easily do.)

Anyway, there’s no shame in what happened to the Rockets this year. A truly great team lost to a slightly greater one that likely won’t stay that way.

by Doc Searls at May 11, 2019 03:09 PM

Global Voices
Netizen Report: Widespread throttling puts social media out of reach in Kazakhstan

The incident coincided with planned demonstrations by opposition leaders.

Almaty, Kazakhstan at night. Photo by Ребров Олег via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

The Advox Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in technology and human rights around the world. This report covers news and events from April  26 – May 10, 2019.

Kazakhstani netizens had virtually no access to major social media platforms or messaging services from May 7 to 9, according to local media reports and testimonies of internet users.

Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube were the platforms most heavily affected by what appears to have been a nationwide wave of “throttling”, a practice that slows users’ access to specific services, to the point that it becomes impossible to reach them.

The timing of the throttling wave appears to be intentional, as Kazakhstani political opposition leaders announced planned demonstrations for May 9, a national holiday in Kazakhstan marking the end of World War II.

On May 6, a young Kazakhstani man was arrested after he stood in a public square, holding up a blank sheet of paper. Police released him shortly thereafter. The man later wrote on Facebook, “I have just put our authorities’ absurdity and insanity under [the] spotlight.” News of his ordeal prompted Kazakhstanis to post photos of themselves holding blank signs on social media.

The throttling of websites and services, alongside this peculiar act of intimidation by police, underline the ruling government’s deep discomfort with public acts of free speech, whether online or off.

Kazakhstan is undergoing an unprecedented political transition as former president Nursultan Nazarbayev announced on March 19 he would step down after almost three decades of undisputed rule. New elections are scheduled to take place in April 2020, leading to a renewal of political activism from the opposition as well as from civic activists.

Sri Lanka lifts ban on social media, after fatal attacks

Officials in Sri Lanka officially lifted a nationwide ban on major social media services on April 30. On April 22, within hours of the bombings that killed hundreds of people at churches and hotels in and near the capital, authorities blocked Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube, Viber, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger. Reactions to the move were mixed, with many expressing frustration with both the government and social media platforms, which have proven inept at controlling the spread of violent speech and disinformation in times of public emergency.

Ugandan feminist scholar faces trial in ‘vagina case’

Ugandan scholar and feminist activist Stella Nyanzi appeared in court on May 9 on charges of violating the Computer Misuse Act sections on cyber harassment and “obscene, lewd, lascivious or indecent” content production. At issue is a poem that Nyanzi published on Facebook, where she has more than 207K followers. The poem asserts that Uganda would have been better off if President Museveni had died at birth and includes several vulgar descriptions of the vagina and clitoris of Museveni’s deceased mother. As such, media have come to refer to Nyanzi’s as the “vagina case.”

Nyanzi, who is known for her radical activism on issues of gender and sexuality, is an outspoken advocate for girls’ education. She was arrested on similar charges in 2017, after she compared Museveni to a “pair of buttocks” on her Facebook page.

CIA warns blogger: ‘the Saudis may be spying on you’

American CIA agents paid an impromptu visit to the Palestinian-born blogger and social media critic Iyad el-Baghdadi last week at his home in Norway, where he has political asylum. The agents warned him that he had become a possible target of the Saudi Arabian government. El-Baghdadi has criticized the kingdom’s human rights record, and spoke out forcefully after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul in October 2018.

El-Baghdadi is a well-known online advocate for human rights and democracy in the Arab region. His blog became hugely popular in 2011, due to his coverage and commentary on the uprisings across the region.

Russian media unmask anonymous anti-Kremlin blogger

The person behind StalinGulag, an immensely popular Russian-language Telegram channel and Twitter account known for acerbic, profanity-laden critiques of Russia's political system, recently revealed his true identity in an interview with BBC Russian.

Alexander Gorbunov, a 27-year-old Moscow resident, had been outed prior to the interview, by a different media outlet, RBC. After many months of attempting to disaggregate the two identities in the public imagination, Gorbunov came forward. In an interview with BBC, followers learned that Gorbunov is wheelchair-bound and suffering from a chronic, rapidly progressing condition known as Werdnig-Hoffman disease, the most severe type of spinal muscular atrophy. A bitter debate about the ethics of revealing Gorbunov’s identity has since ensued among local journalists.

Internet censorship continues to exacerbate the political crisis in Venezuela

After Venezuelan opposition leaders launched what they call the “definitive phase” of a transfer of power from the government of Nicolas Maduro to the opposition leadership of Juan Guaidó (which has yet to take place), major social media platforms including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube became inaccessible, while broadcast connections for both CNN and BBC were cut off altogether.

Internet censorship research group NetBlocks reported that services were restored 20 minutes prior to Nicolás Maduro's streamed speech on May 1.

New research

 

Subscribe to the Netizen Report

 

 

by Ellery Roberts Biddle at May 11, 2019 02:20 AM

May 10, 2019

Global Voices Advocacy
Netizen Report: Widespread throttling puts social media out of reach in Kazakhstan

The incident coincided with planned demonstrations by opposition leaders.

Almaty, Kazakhstan at night. Photo by Ребров Олег via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

The Advox Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in technology and human rights around the world. This report covers news and events from April  26 – May 10, 2019.

Kazakhstani netizens had virtually no access to major social media platforms or messaging services from May 7 to 9, according to local media reports and testimonies of internet users.

Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube were the platforms most heavily affected by what appears to have been a nationwide wave of “throttling”, a practice that slows users’ access to specific services, to the point that it becomes impossible to reach them.

The timing of the throttling wave appears to be intentional, as Kazakhstani political opposition leaders announced planned demonstrations for May 9, a national holiday in Kazakhstan marking the end of World War II.

On May 6, a young Kazakhstani man was arrested after he stood in a public square, holding up a blank sheet of paper. Police released him shortly thereafter. The man later wrote in a comment, “I have just put our authorities’ absurdity and insanity under [the] spotlight.” News of his ordeal prompted Kazakhstanis to post photos of themselves holding blank signs on social media.

The throttling of websites and services, alongside this peculiar act of intimidation by police, underline the ruling government’s deep discomfort with public acts of free speech, whether online or off.

Kazakhstan is undergoing an unprecedented political transition as former president Nursultan Nazarbayev announced on March 19 he would step down after almost three decades of undisputed rule. New elections are scheduled to take place in April 2020, leading to a renewal of political activism from the opposition as well as from civic activists.

Sri Lanka lifts ban on social media, after fatal attacks

Officials in Sri Lanka officially lifted a nationwide ban on major social media services on April 30. On April 22, within hours of the bombings that killed hundreds of people at churches and hotels in and near the capital, authorities blocked Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube, Viber, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger. Reactions to the move were mixed, with many expressing frustration with both the government and social media platforms, which have proven inept at controlling the spread of violent speech and disinformation in times of public emergency.

Ugandan feminist scholar faces trial in ‘vagina case’

Ugandan scholar and feminist activist Stella Nyanzi appeared in court on May 9 on charges of violating the Computer Misuse Act sections on cyber harassment and “obscene, lewd, lascivious or indecent” content production. At issue is a poem that Nyanzi published on Facebook, where she has more than 207K followers. The poem asserts that Uganda would have been better off if President Museveni had died at birth and includes several vulgar descriptions of the vagina and clitoris of Museveni’s deceased mother. As such, media have come to refer to Nyanzi’s as the “vagina case.”

Nyanzi, who is known for her radical activism on issues of gender and sexuality, is an outspoken advocate for girls’ education. She was arrested on similar charges in 2017, after she compared Museveni to a “pair of buttocks” on her Facebook page.

CIA warns blogger: ‘the Saudis may be spying on you’

American CIA agents paid an impromptu visit to the Palestinian-born blogger and social media critic Iyad el-Baghdadi last week at his home in Norway, where he has political asylum. The agents warned him that he had become a possible target of the Saudi Arabian government. El-Baghdadi has criticized the kingdom’s human rights record, and spoke out forcefully after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul in October 2018.

El-Baghdadi is a well-known online advocate for human rights and democracy in the Arab region. His blog became hugely popular in 2011, due to his coverage and commentary on the uprisings across the region.

Russian media unmask anonymous anti-Kremlin blogger

The person behind StalinGulag, an immensely popular Russian-language Telegram channel and Twitter account known for acerbic, profanity-laden critiques of Russia's political system, recently revealed his true identity in an interview with BBC Russian.

Alexander Gorbunov, a 27-year-old Moscow resident, had been outed prior to the interview, by a different media outlet, RBC. After many months of attempting to disaggregate the two identities in the public imagination, Gorbunov came forward. In an interview with BBC, followers learned that Gorbunov is wheelchair-bound and suffering from a chronic, rapidly progressing condition known as Werdnig-Hoffman disease, the most severe type of spinal muscular atrophy. A bitter debate about the ethics of revealing Gorbunov’s identity has since ensued among local journalists.

Internet censorship continues to exacerbate the political crisis in Venezuela

After Venezuelan opposition leaders launched what they call the “definitive phase” of a transfer of power from the government of Nicolas Maduro to the opposition leadership of Juan Guaidó (which has yet to take place), major social media platforms including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube became inaccessible, while broadcast connections for both CNN and BBC were cut off altogether.

Internet censorship research group NetBlocks reported that services were restored 20 minutes prior to Nicolás Maduro's streamed speech on May 1.

New research

 

Subscribe to the Netizen Report

 

 

by Netizen Report Team at May 10, 2019 06:51 PM

Global Voices
Tencent's new game shows how censorship rules are implemented in China

Screen captures from Game for Peace. The killed character would wave goodbye and blood was replaced with a spark of light. Image from Stand News.

A Chinese language version of this report was published on the Stand News on 8 of May 2019.

On May 8, China internet giant Tencent released a new mobile game entitled “Game for Peace” (和平精英) on Weibo.

On the same day, the original version of the game, “Player Unknown Battlegrounds”(PUBG 絕地求生), a web-based multiplayer battle royale game, was removed from the app store, after it was denied a commercial game license.

In 2017, Tencent had successfully obtained the right to release PUBG which was published by PUBG Corporation, a subsidiary of South Korean video game company Bluehole in China. But the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) criticized the combat game for violating the “socialist core value” and harming youth.

In March 2018, regulators decided to stop issuing commercial operating licenses for all online and mobile games, effectively preventing most games from making a profit in the Chinese market. Some of these games, like PUBG, were released in non-commercial beta versions while waiting for their licenses to be approved.

Regulators began issuing game licenses again last month, and also introduced a new set of rules, which demand that all online and mobile games be aligned with socialist core values. The rules also prohibit the following types of content from all games available to players in mainland China:

  • religious elements
  • blood, whether it is red, blue or green in color
  • gambling elements such as Mahjong and poker
  • references to China’s imperial past
  • dead bodies
  • marriage between minors

The new regulation also compels game publishers to promote Chinese values, culture and images through their games.

The newly released “Game for Peace,” effectively a censored version of PUBG, is obviously in alignment with the new rules. It is a relatively positive game emphasizing peace, it is much less violent than its predecessor, and what would normally be blood now appears as a spark of light. The word “Killed” (擊殺)has been replaced with the word “Out” (淘汰). Once a player has been shot, instead of becoming a corpse covered with blood, the character waves his or her hand, signalling a friendly farewell.

The “Game for Peace” had already obtained its commercial operating license and Tencent stressed that the game's plot would focus on the theme of “anti-terrorist competition”.

by The Stand News at May 10, 2019 03:53 PM

In India, Rooh Afza lovers rejoice as the drink returns to shelves in time for Ramadan

113-year-old pride of the country is back after 6 months

Rooh Afza Syrup (Lal sharbat)

Rooh Afza Syrup (Lal sharbat). Image via Wikipedia by Miansari66. Public Domain.

As followers of the Islamic faith begin to observe Ramadan this May, the many beloved foods and drinks consumed by the Muslims of the Indian sub-continent during this month are worth noting. One of the common drinks in many Muslim houses in this region is a concentrated herbal squash called Rooh Afza (Soul Enhancer). However, as this year's Ramadan drew near, Rooh Afza lovers in India were faced with an unprecedented crisis — the syrup (made by Hamdard Laboratories) had been off the shelves for months and was unavailable across the country.

A century-long history:

As a herbal concoction to beat the heat, the drink was first formulated in 1906 by Hakim Mohammed Kabiruddin, a physician of Unani herbal medicine in Ghaziabad, British India, and was later launched by Hakeem Hafiz Abdul Majeed from Old Delhi, India.

Rooh Afza is commonly associated with the month of Ramadan, in which it is usually consumed during iftar (breaking the fast). It is sold commercially as a syrup to flavor sherbets, cold milk drinks, iced waters, and cold desserts. Around 20 million bottles are produced per year in India alone.

After the partition of India until now, Rooh Afza has been manufactured by the companies founded by Hakeem Hafiz Abdul Majeed and his sons which spread throughout India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

Mayank Austen Sufi writes in LiveMint:

Exoticizing itself as the “Summer drink of the East”, Rooh Afza in Pakistan tastes exactly the same as its Indian counterpart. After East Pakistan became Bangladesh in 1971, the property in Dhaka was transferred to a local entrepreneur, who carried on the legacy that began in Old Delhi’s Lal Kuan.

The current dispute

The company is allegedly undergoing a management dispute which potentially contributed to the Indian Rooh Afza shortage crisis. Shivam VJ writes in the online newspaper the Print.in:

The dispute is over the chair of Chief Mutawalli (equivalent to CEO) of Hamdard, which is currently held by Abdul Majeed, the great-grandson of Hakeem Hafiz Abdul Majeed, the Unani medicine practitioner who founded the company in old Delhi over a century ago. The company also owns traditional medicine brands such as Safi, Cinkara, Masturin and Joshina.

Abdul Majeed’s cousin Hammad Ahmed has been trying to take over the company, claiming rightful inheritance. He even went to court for it, and the legal battle put a stop to the production of RoohAfza.

The Rooh Afza shortage brought more attention after Hamdard Laboratories Pakistan offered to supply Rooh Afza to India during the Ramadan period.

Usama Qureshi, MD, and CEO of Hamdard Pakistan tweeted:

Hamdard denies reports:

The Hamdard Laboratories in India, however, refuted the media reports about the management dispute and blamed a shortage of ingredients as the reason for product unavailability. As per the latest report, the company mentioned that the product is now available again.

And citizens rejoiced the comeback:

113 yrs old Pride of the country, the most popular herbal drink of Hamdard #RoohAfza is Back after 6 months…cheers 🍹🍹

by Rezwan at May 10, 2019 12:22 PM

May 09, 2019

Global Voices Advocacy
Is Stella Nyanzi ‘weaponizing the vagina'? Ugandan feminist goes to court in free speech case

“Her offence was only that she said what everyone else sees.”

Dr. Stella Nyanzi. Photo via Flickr / Chapter Four Uganda / Human Rights Convention, 2018 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Professor Stella Nyanzi was back in court on May 9, in a case in which the Ugandan government claims the word vagina is lewd and offensive.

Nyanzi, 43, was arrested in November 2018 after writing a poem critical of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and posting it to her Facebook page. The poem asserts that Uganda would have been better off had Museveni died at birth and includes several vulgar descriptions of the vagina and clitoris of Museveni’s deceased mother.  Nyanzi's Facebook page currently has 207,895 followers.

The state says Nyanzi intentionally harassed and humiliated the president with her poem and has charged her with violating the Computer Misuse Act sections on cyber harassment and “obscene, lewd, lascivious or indecent” content production. Although Uganda's law does not indicate special provisions for criticism of the president, international free expression doctrine recommends increased protections for critical speech targeting government officials.

Nyanzi has remained at Luzira prison in Kampala, the capital, for over 180 days. Although she was offered released on bail, she rejected it, stating that her freedom would only be an illusion with the case still pending. She faces a one-year prison sentence if convicted.

The “vagina case” has dragged on for months as the court delayed several hearings. The May 9 court session includes a cross-examination with Assistant Superintendent of Police Bill Ndyamuhaki, the main witness in the case, who also testified in a hearing on March 20, 2019:

In the packed courtroom, the judge offered Nyanzi a seat but when it came with a comment about how it might be too much for her as a woman to stand, she decided to “stand for the women” as described in this tweet:

The entire timeline of Nyanzi's online behavior was projected on a large screen in court to discuss each of the posts in question, including the “vagina” poem. Writer and lawyer Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire has been tweeting updates on the case:

Still, there is no closure and the case was adjourned again until May 13.

‘Radical rudeness’

Stella Nyanzi has worked as a professor of medical anthropology at Makerere Institute for Social Research with a focus on gender and sexuality. As a queer poet and scholar, she uses metaphors and strong language in her messages on human rights, freedom of expression and queer feminism.

Known for her “radical rudeness” and penchant for challenging power through insult, Nyanzi has been arrested on other occasions, also for insulting the president. These tactics follow a long history of social activism in Uganda dating back to the 1940s under British colonial rule. Ugandan activists intentionally critiqued colonial order through deliberate, disorderly, obnoxious rudeness as a way to attack and disrupt British social norms.

In 2017, Nyanzi faced similar charges in what is known as the “pair of buttocks” case, when she called the president these words and also targeted his wife for being “empty brained.”

That is what buttocks do. They shake, jiggle, shit and fart. Museveni is just another pair of buttocks … Ugandans should be shocked that we allowed these buttocks to continue leading our country.

Museveni, who has ruled Uganda since 1986, failed to deliver on a campaign promise to provide sanitary pads to all schoolgirls before the 2016 elections. Nyanzi critiqued this and other development failures under Museveni's leadership through her viral rhetoric on social media.

Nyanzi was soon arrested for the “pair of buttocks” comment and spent one month in prison, prompting the hashtag #FreeStellaNyanzi, which is still trending on Twitter, along with #PushforStellaNyanzi. The case was adjourned on April 24, 2019, with a constitutional petition pending.

According to The Guardian:

Nyanzi describes herself as ‘a lyricist, poetess, creative writer and analyst’ on a quest for good governance. She’s unflinching in her criticism of government and is unafraid to tackle taboos around sex and gender and stand up for LGBT rights.

Hashtags like #weaponizethevagina and massive support from human rights and free speech activists keep Nyanzi hopeful, vocal and resolute, but her health has suffered and she has lost her job at Makerere University as a result of her activism. Radical rudeness can take its toll even on the fiercest of activists in the fight against poverty and oppression.

In the words of one Ugandan netizen:

by Amanda Lichtenstein at May 09, 2019 07:28 PM

Global Voices
Is Stella Nyanzi ‘weaponizing the vagina'? Ugandan feminist goes to court in free speech case

“Her offence was only that she said what everyone else sees.”

Dr. Stella Nyanzi. Photo via Flickr / Chapter Four Uganda / Human Rights Convention, 2018 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Professor Stella Nyanzi was back in court on May 9, in a case in which the Ugandan government claims the word vagina is lewd and offensive.

Nyanzi, 43, was arrested in November 2018 after writing a poem critical of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and posting it to her Facebook page. The poem asserts that Uganda would have been better off had Museveni died at birth and includes several vulgar descriptions of the vagina and clitoris of Museveni’s deceased mother.  Nyanzi's Facebook page currently has 207,895 followers.

The state says Nyanzi intentionally harassed and humiliated the president with her poem and has charged her with violating the Computer Misuse Act sections on cyber harassment and “obscene, lewd, lascivious or indecent” content production. Although Uganda's law does not indicate special provisions for criticism of the president, international free expression doctrine recommends increased protections for critical speech targeting government officials.

Nyanzi has remained at Luzira prison in Kampala, the capital, for over 180 days. Although she was offered released on bail, she rejected it, stating that her freedom would only be an illusion with the case still pending. She faces a one-year prison sentence if convicted.

The “vagina case” has dragged on for months as the court delayed several hearings. The May 9 court session includes a cross-examination with Assistant Superintendent of Police Bill Ndyamuhaki, the main witness in the case, who also testified in a hearing on March 20, 2019:

In the packed courtroom, the judge offered Nyanzi a seat but when it came with a comment about how it might be too much for her as a woman to stand, she decided to “stand for the women” as described in this tweet:

The entire timeline of Nyanzi's online behavior was projected on a large screen in court to discuss each of the posts in question, including the “vagina” poem. Writer and lawyer Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire has been tweeting updates on the case:

Still, there is no closure and the case was adjourned again until May 13.

‘Radical rudeness’

Stella Nyanzi has worked as a professor of medical anthropology at Makerere Institute for Social Research with a focus on gender and sexuality. As a queer poet and scholar, she uses metaphors and strong language in her messages on human rights, freedom of expression and queer feminism.

Known for her “radical rudeness” and penchant for challenging power through insult, Nyanzi has been arrested on other occasions, also for insulting the president. These tactics follow a long history of social activism in Uganda dating back to the 1940s under British colonial rule. Ugandan activists intentionally critiqued colonial order through deliberate, disorderly, obnoxious rudeness as a way to attack and disrupt British social norms.

In 2017, Nyanzi faced similar charges in what is known as the “pair of buttocks” case, when she called the president these words and also targeted his wife for being “empty brained.”

That is what buttocks do. They shake, jiggle, shit and fart. Museveni is just another pair of buttocks … Ugandans should be shocked that we allowed these buttocks to continue leading our country.

Museveni, who has ruled Uganda since 1986, failed to deliver on a campaign promise to provide sanitary pads to all schoolgirls before the 2016 elections. Nyanzi critiqued this and other development failures under Museveni's leadership through her viral rhetoric on social media.

Nyanzi was soon arrested for the “pair of buttocks” comment and spent one month in prison, prompting the hashtag #FreeStellaNyanzi, which is still trending on Twitter, along with #PushforStellaNyanzi. The case was adjourned on April 24, 2019, with a constitutional petition pending.

According to The Guardian:

Nyanzi describes herself as ‘a lyricist, poetess, creative writer and analyst’ on a quest for good governance. She’s unflinching in her criticism of government and is unafraid to tackle taboos around sex and gender and stand up for LGBT rights.

Hashtags like #weaponizethevagina and massive support from human rights and free speech activists keep Nyanzi hopeful, vocal and resolute, but her health has suffered and she has lost her job at Makerere University as a result of her activism. Radical rudeness can take its toll even on the fiercest of activists in the fight against poverty and oppression.

In the words of one Ugandan netizen:

by Amanda Lichtenstein at May 09, 2019 05:14 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
Will drivers cash in on Uber stock when the company goes public?
Uber is going public tomorrow, listing its shares on the New York Stock Exchange. Some employees of the company stand to make millions, even billions of dollars. And Uber is giving drivers with more than 2,500 rides on the platform cash bonuses that they can use to buy stock at the initial public offering price. The amounts range from $100 to up to $40,000, depending on how many rides a driver has. But how much of a benefit is that to drivers who are already unhappy with their pay? Today's show is sponsored by Logi Analytics and Indeed.

by Marketplace at May 09, 2019 08:30 AM

May 08, 2019

Creative Commons
Meet CC: The 2019 Creative Commons Global Summit Scholarships

Every year, Creative Commons invites community members from around the world to join us at our Global Summit. It is crucial that we come together as a community, celebrate each other, light up the commons, and collaborate. In order to reach the largest number of community members possible, we invest a significant amount of resources into our scholarship program, which this year supports 150 participants, or 38% of all Summit attendees. Summit scholarship recipients come from 59 countries and represent every world region. CC has invested more money and supported an increasing number of participants over the past few years, providing an average gift of over $600 to give $90,700 in total in 2019.

This year, we’re welcoming representatives from organizations including: Derechos Digitales, Global Voices, Kenya Copyright Board, Jordan Open Source Association, Aga Khan University, Jamlab, Visualizing Palestine, Communia, Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, ANSOL – Portuguese Association for Free Software, Karisma Foundation, SPARC Africa, and Open Culture Foundation. These professionals are experts in their fields and leaders in their communities. While the majority of our scholarship recipients come from Europe (39%), we have a relatively even spread of world regions represented, with 66% joining us from the Global South.

Below, hear from eleven scholarship recipients about their experience and background, their sessions, and what they are most looking forward to at the CC Global Summit.

julianaJuliana Soto, CC Colombia
I’m part of the CC community in Colombia since 2010 and I’m excited to participate in this year’s CC Global Summit. I’m involved with the free culture movement in my region because I believe in collaboration, openness, and diversity and because we need to keep saying that sharing is not a crime. I’m pleased to be a speaker in four sessions during the Summit and I definitely want to highlight one: “Common strategies in Latin America” an open conversation on Saturday, May 11 at 9 am.

subhashishSubhashish Panigrahi, CC India and Bangladesh
I’m Subhashish, a documentary filmmaker and open culture activist by night and a community manager by day. Having been a part of the CC community since 2011, this is going to be my first summit and I cannot be more excited to meet in person many of mentors and old friends as well as make new friends. I am based in Bengaluru, India where I got involved with the Wikipedia/Wikimedia community and then with the CC and Openness community. I believe that knowledge only grows and spreads when shared in an open manner—CC revolutionizes the way knowledge is shared in society. On Saturday (May 11), I will be speaking about OpenSpeaks, a project that I founded to create open resources like OER, Open Toolkits, and Open Source software to help educate language archivists.

emilioEmilio Velis, CC Salvador
I’m Emilio and I am part of the El Salvador CC Chapter. I have been involved in my local chapter since 2013, and also been part of other communities related to technology and open hardware. I am eager to be part of this summit because I’m interested in how we can work together to document and share open projects in a way that people can get the best out of it. This time, I am presenting a session this Friday at 4pm on ontologies for open hardware and how different communities are working on it. I’m looking forward to seeing you all!

Siyanna Lilova, CC Bangladesh
My name is Siyanna and I’m the Global Network Representative of the newly found CC Bulgaria Chapter. For the last year I’ve been actively involved with the copyright reform and developing the open knowledge movement in Sofia. I’m excited to attend my first Global Summit and I am eager to meet so many like minded people from around the world working together to create a more collaborative and open future.

Kin Ko, CC Hong Kong
I’m Kin Ko, a CC member from Hong Kong. Most of the time we are working with the Chinese community on open content and culture, and I’m excited to learn about the experiences from, and share our learnings with, other parts of the world.

I’ve been a user and adopter of CC because I believe in openness and diversity. In recent years I’ve taken a step forward to get involved in some volunteering works, such as joining the CC Global Summit program committee. I’m the founder of LikeCoin Foundation which is running Civic Liker, a movement to encourage people to nano tip open contents. Technically speaking, we are building LikeChain, a blockchain for open content registry. I’ll be hosting the session “Civic Liker – a movement to reward CC licensed contents with a monthly budget” on Saturday 11-11:45am. i’m easily reachable by @ckxpress – Telegram/Twitter/LINE/Messenger/WeChat and email kin@ckxpress.com

alexandrosAlexandros Nousias, CC Greece
It was back in 2007 when with no resources at all I took the plane to Dubrovnik to attend the CC Global Summit. Unofficially I had been following CC since 2004 but never as part of the community. That moment changed my life as I came across with people, ideas, trends, methods and tools that would define me as a professional, a citizen and an individual. I’m Alexandros Nousias, CC Greece Legal Lead and on Friday at the Building the Commons Lightning Talks (4:30pm – 5:30pm), I will explain why after a 15 year discussion around the topic, we need to re-engineer the concept of open as it applies in a) digital creation b) you and me as data subjects and information agents, taking into account the technological advancements of now.

mehtabMehtab Khan, Creative Commons
I’m Mehtab, a doctoral candidate at University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, and a former Research Fellow at Creative Commons. I’m from Pakistan and coming to the Global Summit from San Francisco, USA. I’m excited to attend because this is the first time I’ll be attending the Global Summit. I’m looking forward to participating in discussions about critical issues in the Open Movement and meeting community members from all over the world! I’m involved with CC because I believe that knowledge should be accessible and affordable for everyone. I’ll be a part of two sessions on May 9: “Do you use OpenGLAM? Help review shared #OpenGLAM principles” at 9:00 am, and “Traditional Knowledge and the Commons: What’s Next?” at 10:45 am.

kamelKamel Belhamel, CC Algeria
I’m Kamel, coming from Algeria, I’m member of the Membership Committee of the Creative Commons Global Network Council. I’m excited to attend CC Global Summit 2019 – Lisbon, Portugal. I’ll be a part of a session on Open Access Scholarly Publication in Algeria. Also, I’ll attend Opening Africa , this collaborating session by CC Africa Chapters and individuals, which will highlight various achievements and developing inter-regional links for collaboration across Africa.

nourNour El Houda, CC Algeria
I’m Nour El Houda, coming from Algeria, I’m a member of CC Algeria Chapter. I’m excited to attend CC Global Summit 2019 – Lisbon, Portugal. I’ll be a part of a session on Ethics of Openness Lightning Talks on Thursday, May 9 from 11:00am – 11:25am.

paulaPaula Eskett, CC New Zealand
Kia ora, I’m Paula from Christchurch, New Zealand. This year will be my 3rd CC Summit. I’m really excited because I’m in a new role within libraries in NZ (managing a district of public libraries) with a large team and have real opportunities and mandate to introduce and guide others in to our world of Open and CC. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with old friends, and making new connections and learning. I’ll be running a session on Day 1 at 1pm: Stories and SDG’s from the libraries of Aotearoa NZ. I’m the current president of our national library association LIANZA, and proud to share the way our libraries are a national force for equity, openess,community building and helping to bring to life the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) of the UN2030 agenda across New Zealand.

veethikaVeethika Mishra, CC India
I’m Veethika Mishra, and I attended CC Global Summit the previous year (in Toronto) to propagate the idea of Openness in Design. After interacting with the amazing set of people at the conference, and learning about their passion and approach to make the world a better place, I decided to contribute to the movement actively. I’m from Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India, and I work as an Interaction Designer.

The post Meet CC: The 2019 Creative Commons Global Summit Scholarships appeared first on Creative Commons.

by Jennie Rose Halperin at May 08, 2019 07:30 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Mauritanian blogger escaped the death penalty, but remains behind bars

Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir was convicted of apostasy in 2014.

Ould Mkhaitir was sentenced to death in 2014 over an opinion piece published online.

Despite having his death sentence commuted more than a year ago, Mauritanian blogger Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir is still in prison.

Ould Mkhaitir was sentenced to death in 2014 over an opinion article published on the website of the newspaper Aqlame. In the article, entitled “Religion, Religiosity and Craftsmen”, Ould Mkhaitir criticised the role of religion in Mauritania’s caste system, using stories from the lifetime of prophet Muhammad to support his argument. The original article has since been taken down by Aqlame, but is still available online.

A court convicted him of “apostasy” and sentenced him to death under Article 306 of the Mauritanian Penal Code.

In April 2016, a court of appeal upheld his sentence and referred his case to the Supreme Court, which then returned it to the appeal court for ”procedural irregularities”. In November 2017 his death sentence was commuted and reduced to two years in jail and a fine by the court of appeal. However, despite having already served more than two years in prison, the authorities did not release Ould Mkhaitir. Almost 18 months after the appeal court's decision to release him, he remains behind bars.

On April 24, 2019 Mauritania's justice minister said that Mkhaitir was in “temporary detention” and that “only the Supreme Court can rule on his fate.”

Article 306 of the Penal Code previously provided that if the convicted person “repents” before his or her execution, the Mauritanian Supreme Court could commute the death sentence to a jail sentence of between three months and two years, and a fine.

But in April 2018, the Mauritanian National Assembly passed a law making the death penalty mandatory for anyone convicted of “blasphemous speech” and acts deemed “sacrilegious.”

“The timing of the enactment of the law just a few months after the court of appeal ordered Mkhaïtir’s release appears to be related to his case,” Human Rights Watch said in November 2018.

Critiques of racism and the caste system are taboo in Mauritania, and have spurred many political and legal threats against journalists and activists in recent years. In 1981, Mauritania became the last country on earth to officially abolish slavery, and only criminalized the practice in 2007. But since that time, UN officials and human rights workers have documented evidence that thousands of people, many of them ethnic Haratines of black African origin, are still enslaved, living in situations of forced labour, or otherwise facing caste-based discrimination.

The Mauritanian government denies that slavery still exists in the country, and many people like Ould Mkhaitir, who speak out against the practice and discrimination against Haratines, have been jailed and prosecuted. Last September, authorities jailed and charged activist Abdallahi Salem Ould Yali with incitement to violence and racial hatred for posting messages in WhatsApp group denouncing the plight and the marginalisation of his community.

by Afef Abrougui at May 08, 2019 05:06 PM

Despite the release of detained Reuters reporters, free speech remains under threat in Myanmar

Two Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo walked free from Insein prison in Yangon. Photo and caption by Myo Min Soe / The Irrawaddy is a content partner of Global Voices.

Media groups and human rights advocates are celebrating the release of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo who spent more than 500 days in detention for their role in investigating the massacre of some Rohingya residents in northern Myanmar. But despite their release, the state of free speech in the country is still undermined by the continued detention and persecution of some artists, journalists, and activists. Consider the following cases:

Defamation case against The Irrawaddy

A defamation complaint was filed by the military's Yangon Region Command against The Irrawaddy's Burmese-language editor U Ye Ni over the news website's alleged unfair coverage of the armed clashes between government forces and the insurgent Arakan Army in Rakhine State. The Irrawaddy said it did nothing but report the escalating armed clashes in the region since the start of 2019. Here is U Ye Ni’s response to the case filed by the military:

I feel sorry about the military’s misunderstanding of us. Journalism dictates that we reveal the suffering of people in a conflict area. Our intention behind the coverage is to push those concerned to solve the problems by understanding the sufferings of the people.

The Irrawaddy is a content partner of Global Voices.

Jailed for satire

Meanwhile, five members of the Peacock Generation Thangyat troupe were sent to Insein prison to await trial for their satirical performance mocking the army. Thangyat is performance art similar to slam poetry featuring folk verses with traditional musical notes and is combined with song, dance, and chants. The group was charged with violating article 505(a) of the penal code which criminalizes the circulation of statements, rumors, or reports with the intent to cause any military officer to disregard or fail in his duties.

Zeyar Lwin, one of the accused, said:

All of our cases are political issues so that they need to resolve them as political issues. And also, I’d like to say all of us need to join the work for amending the 2008 constitution being done in parliament. In my opinion all of these issues can be resolved if we can do the primary work of amending the constitution.

Zeyar Lwin is referring to the 2008 constitution which many analysts believe was designed to reinforce military rule even after the restoration of civilian leadership.

Sickly filmmaker in detention

The case of filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi also reflects the restrictions imposed on critical artists. A complaint filed by a military officer against the filmmaker's ‘defamatory’ Facebook posts led to his arrest. Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi is the founder of the Myanmar Human Rights Human Dignity Film Festival and a known critic of the military's involvement in politics. His supporters are calling for his release on humanitarian grounds, since he has had half of his liver removed due to cancer and suffers from heart and kidney problems. The Human Rights Film Network, a partnership of 40 human rights film festivals around the world, sent this letter to the government:

As a concerned international human rights community, we seek reassurance from the Myanmar government to ensure that Section66(d), which was meant to enhance progress of telecommunications, will not be used to silence the voice of Myanmarese civilians seeking to voice their opinions and take part in the democratic process in Myanmar.

The letter refers to the controversial Section 66(d) defamation law which has been used by authorities to charge critics, activists, and journalists.

Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi's petition for bail was rejected by a local court. His next hearing is scheduled for May 9, 2019.

“They should never have been jailed in the first place.”

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were sentenced to seven years in prison for violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act. The Supreme Court upheld their conviction last April with finality but they were released from prison after they were granted a presidential pardon during the country’s traditional New Year.

Groups like the Southeast Asian Press Alliance welcomed the release of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo but they also highlighted the injustice suffered by the two reporters:

They should never have been jailed in the first place, because they committed no crime.

While we welcome this positive development, the case of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo is proof that journalists are in constant risk of political reprisal for keeping power in check.

by Mong Palatino at May 08, 2019 05:02 PM

Mozambican journalists are released pending trial, after months in detention

Both were detained after covering violent attacks in the north.

The journalist Amade Abubacar. Photo: Screengrab, caiccajuda/Youtube.

Journalists Amade Abubacar and Germano Adriano, who were detained earlier this year while covering the military conflict in northern Mozambique, were released pending trial on 23 April, 2019.

Amade, who contributes to various local media outlets including Zitamar News and A Carta, was detained on 5 January while he interviewed internally displaced people in the Macomia district of Cabo Delgado, a northern province of the country. Germano, a reporter for the local community radio Nacedje, disappeared on 6 February and was found to have been detained on 18 February.

According to the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Amade and Germano were charged with “spreading defamatory messages against members of the Mozambican Armed Defence Forces via a Facebook account that announced attacks which occurred in villages in the district of Macomia.”

The journalists were released from the provincial jail of Mieze in Pemba, Cabo Delgado’s capital, and will be on probation as they await trial before the provincial judicial court of Cabo Delgado. Their first hearing is scheduled for 17 May.

Since 2017, groups armed with knives have carried out attacks on villages in Cabo Delgado, burning houses and decapitating residents. More than 90 people have died since the attacks began, according to the police. To date, no group has publicly claimed responsibility for the attacks.

In December 2018, the newspaper A Carta de Moçambique revealed the existence of a Facebook page, run under a name that appears to have been falsified, that praised the armed groups’ attacks in Cabo Delgado.

It unknown whether or not the accusations against Amade and Germano are concerning this same page. The journalists’ defence team says there is no connection between them and any illegal activity via Facebook.

The proceedings against the journalists have been marked by irregularities. After detaining Amade, the police placed him in military custody. He was put in a military prison, where he spent 12 days incommunicado before being transferred to a civilian prison.

The journalists were only charged on 16 April, violating the deadline of 90 days set out in the Mozambican Law of Pre-trial Detention in the case of Abubacar.

In court proceedings during their pre-trial detention, both journalists were accused of “crimes of violating state secrets through digital means and public incitement to a crime using digital means.” These accusations differ from the formal charges that have now been filed against them, which MISA described as “spreading defamatory messages against members of the Mozambican Armed Defence Forces via a Facebook account that announced attacks which occurred in villages in the district of Macomia.”

During the 106 days he spent in prison, Abubacar faced a lack of food and refusal of medical assistance, according to Amnesty International. His family told the newspaper @Verdade that they were stopped from visiting him during the whole time that Abubacar was in custody.

What has happened to these journalists may be part of a trend of intimidation against media workers in northern Mozambique. Independent investigative journalist Estácio Valoi was detained in December 2018, also in Cabo Delgado on legally dubious terms. He was later released, without any charge, but his work equipment remains in the army’s custody.

Calls for justice

Cídia Chissungo, an activist and organiser of the #FreeAmade campaign, celebrated the news:

Angela Quintal, coordinator of the Africa Program for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), commented:

by Alexandre Nhampossa at May 08, 2019 04:58 PM

Global Voices
Mauritanian blogger escaped the death penalty, but remains behind bars

Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir was convicted of apostasy in 2014.

Ould Mkhaitir was sentenced to death in 2014 over an opinion piece published online.

Despite having his death sentence commuted more than a year ago, Mauritanian blogger Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir is still in prison.

Ould Mkhaitir was sentenced to death in 2014 over an opinion article published on the website of the newspaper Aqlame. In the article, entitled “Religion, Religiosity and Craftsmen”, Ould Mkhaitir criticised the role of religion in Mauritania’s caste system, using stories from the lifetime of prophet Muhammad to support his argument. The original article has since been taken down by Aqlame, but is still available online.

A court convicted him of “apostasy” and sentenced him to death under Article 306 of the Mauritanian Penal Code.

In April 2016, a court of appeal upheld his sentence and referred his case to the Supreme Court, which then returned it to the appeal court for ”procedural irregularities”. In November 2017 his death sentence was commuted and reduced to two years in jail and a fine by the court of appeal. However, despite having already served more than two years in prison, the authorities did not release Ould Mkhaitir. Almost 18 months after the appeal court's decision to release him, he remains behind bars.

On April 24, 2019 Mauritania's justice minister said that Mkhaitir was in “temporary detention” and that “only the Supreme Court can rule on his fate.”

Article 306 of the Penal Code previously provided that if the convicted person “repents” before his or her execution, the Mauritanian Supreme Court could commute the death sentence to a jail sentence of between three months and two years, and a fine.

But in April 2018, the Mauritanian National Assembly passed a law making the death penalty mandatory for anyone convicted of “blasphemous speech” and acts deemed “sacrilegious.”

“The timing of the enactment of the law just a few months after the court of appeal ordered Mkhaïtir’s release appears to be related to his case,” Human Rights Watch said in November 2018.

Critiques of racism and the caste system are taboo in Mauritania, and have spurred many political and legal threats against journalists and activists in recent years. In 1981, Mauritania became the last country on earth to officially abolish slavery, and only criminalized the practice in 2007. But since that time, UN officials and human rights workers have documented evidence that thousands of people, many of them ethnic Haratines of black African origin, are still enslaved, living in situations of forced labour, or otherwise facing caste-based discrimination.

The Mauritanian government denies that slavery still exists in the country, and many people like Ould Mkhaitir, who speak out against the practice and discrimination against Haratines, have been jailed and prosecuted. Last September, authorities jailed and charged activist Abdallahi Salem Ould Yali with incitement to violence and racial hatred for posting messages in WhatsApp group denouncing the plight and the marginalisation of his community.

by Afef Abrougui at May 08, 2019 04:36 PM

Despite the release of detained Reuters reporters, free speech remains under threat in Myanmar

Two Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo walked free from Insein prison in Yangon. Photo and caption by Myo Min Soe / The Irrawaddy is a content partner of Global Voices.

Media groups and human rights advocates are celebrating the release of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo who spent more than 500 days in detention for their role in investigating the massacre of some Rohingya residents in northern Myanmar. But despite their release, the state of free speech in the country is still undermined by the continued detention and persecution of some artists, journalists, and activists. Consider the following cases:

Defamation case against The Irrawaddy

A defamation complaint was filed by the military's Yangon Region Command against The Irrawaddy's Burmese-language editor U Ye Ni over the news website's alleged unfair coverage of the armed clashes between government forces and the insurgent Arakan Army in Rakhine State. The Irrawaddy said it did nothing but report the escalating armed clashes in the region since the start of 2019. Here is U Ye Ni’s response to the case filed by the military:

I feel sorry about the military’s misunderstanding of us. Journalism dictates that we reveal the suffering of people in a conflict area. Our intention behind the coverage is to push those concerned to solve the problems by understanding the sufferings of the people.

The Irrawaddy is a content partner of Global Voices.

Jailed for satire

Meanwhile, five members of the Peacock Generation Thangyat troupe were sent to Insein prison to await trial for their satirical performance mocking the army. Thangyat is performance art similar to slam poetry featuring folk verses with traditional musical notes and is combined with song, dance, and chants. The group was charged with violating article 505(a) of the penal code which criminalizes the circulation of statements, rumors, or reports with the intent to cause any military officer to disregard or fail in his duties.

Zeyar Lwin, one of the accused, said:

All of our cases are political issues so that they need to resolve them as political issues. And also, I’d like to say all of us need to join the work for amending the 2008 constitution being done in parliament. In my opinion all of these issues can be resolved if we can do the primary work of amending the constitution.

Zeyar Lwin is referring to the 2008 constitution which many analysts believe was designed to reinforce military rule even after the restoration of civilian leadership.

Sickly filmmaker in detention

The case of filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi also reflects the restrictions imposed on critical artists. A complaint filed by a military officer against the filmmaker's ‘defamatory’ Facebook posts led to his arrest. Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi is the founder of the Myanmar Human Rights Human Dignity Film Festival and a known critic of the military's involvement in politics. His supporters are calling for his release on humanitarian grounds, since he has had half of his liver removed due to cancer and suffers from heart and kidney problems. The Human Rights Film Network, a partnership of 40 human rights film festivals around the world, sent this letter to the government:

As a concerned international human rights community, we seek reassurance from the Myanmar government to ensure that Section66(d), which was meant to enhance progress of telecommunications, will not be used to silence the voice of Myanmarese civilians seeking to voice their opinions and take part in the democratic process in Myanmar.

The letter refers to the controversial Section 66(d) defamation law which has been used by authorities to charge critics, activists, and journalists.

Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi's petition for bail was rejected by a local court. His next hearing is scheduled for May 9, 2019.

“They should never have been jailed in the first place.”

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were sentenced to seven years in prison for violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act. The Supreme Court upheld their conviction last April with finality but they were released from prison after they were granted a presidential pardon during the country’s traditional New Year.

Groups like the Southeast Asian Press Alliance welcomed the release of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo but they also highlighted the injustice suffered by the two reporters:

They should never have been jailed in the first place, because they committed no crime.

While we welcome this positive development, the case of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo is proof that journalists are in constant risk of political reprisal for keeping power in check.

by Mong Palatino at May 08, 2019 04:07 PM

Mozambican journalists are released pending trial, after months in detention

Both were detained after covering violent attacks in the north.

The journalist Amade Abubacar. Photo: Screengrab, caiccajuda/Youtube.

Journalists Amade Abubacar and Germano Adriano, who were detained earlier this year while covering the military conflict in northern Mozambique, were released pending trial on 23 April, 2019.

Amade, who contributes to various local media outlets including Zitamar News and A Carta, was detained on 5 January while he interviewed internally displaced people in the Macomia district of Cabo Delgado, a northern province of the country. Germano, a reporter for the local community radio Nacedje, disappeared on 6 February and was found to have been detained on 18 February.

According to the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Amade and Germano were charged with “spreading defamatory messages against members of the Mozambican Armed Defence Forces via a Facebook account that announced attacks which occurred in villages in the district of Macomia.”

The journalists were released from the provincial jail of Mieze in Pemba, Cabo Delgado’s capital, and will be on probation as they await trial before the provincial judicial court of Cabo Delgado. Their first hearing is scheduled for 17 May.

Since 2017, groups armed with knives have carried out attacks on villages in Cabo Delgado, burning houses and decapitating residents. More than 90 people have died since the attacks began, according to the police. To date, no group has publicly claimed responsibility for the attacks.

In December 2018, the newspaper A Carta de Moçambique revealed the existence of a Facebook page, run under a name that appears to have been falsified, that praised the armed groups’ attacks in Cabo Delgado.

It unknown whether or not the accusations against Amade and Germano are concerning this same page. The journalists’ defence team says there is no connection between them and any illegal activity via Facebook.

The proceedings against the journalists have been marked by irregularities. After detaining Amade, the police placed him in military custody. He was put in a military prison, where he spent 12 days incommunicado before being transferred to a civilian prison.

The journalists were only charged on 16 April, violating the deadline of 90 days set out in the Mozambican Law of Pre-trial Detention in the case of Abubacar.

In court proceedings during their pre-trial detention, both journalists were accused of “crimes of violating state secrets through digital means and public incitement to a crime using digital means.” These accusations differ from the formal charges that have now been filed against them, which MISA described as “spreading defamatory messages against members of the Mozambican Armed Defence Forces via a Facebook account that announced attacks which occurred in villages in the district of Macomia.”

During the 106 days he spent in prison, Abubacar faced a lack of food and refusal of medical assistance, according to Amnesty International. His family told the newspaper @Verdade that they were stopped from visiting him during the whole time that Abubacar was in custody.

What has happened to these journalists may be part of a trend of intimidation against media workers in northern Mozambique. Independent investigative journalist Estácio Valoi was detained in December 2018, also in Cabo Delgado on legally dubious terms. He was later released, without any charge, but his work equipment remains in the army’s custody.

Calls for justice

Cídia Chissungo, an activist and organiser of the #FreeAmade campaign, celebrated the news:

Angela Quintal, coordinator of the Africa Program for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), commented:

by Liam Anderson at May 08, 2019 02:57 PM

Joi Ito
I Embraced Screen Time With My Daughter--and I Love It

Like most parents of young children, I've found that determining how best to guide my almost 2-year-old daughter's relationship with technology--especially YouTube and mobile devices--is a challenge. And I'm not alone: One 2018 survey of parents found that overuse of digital devices has become the number one parenting concern in the United States.

Empirically grounded, rigorously researched advice is hard to come by. So perhaps it's not surprising that I've noticed a puzzling trend in my friends who provide me with unsolicited parenting advice. In general, my most liberal and tech-savvy friends exercise the most control and are weirdly technophobic when it comes to their children's screen time. What's most striking to me is how many of their opinions about children and technology are not representative of the broader consensus of research, but seem to be based on fearmongering books, media articles, and TED talks that amplify and focus on only the especially troubling outcomes of too much screen time.

I often turn to my sister, Mimi Ito, for advice on these issues. She has raised two well-adjusted kids and directs the Connected Learning Lab at UC Irvine, where researchers conduct extensive research on children and technology. Her opinion is that "most tech-privileged parents should be less concerned with controlling their kids' tech use and more about being connected to their digital lives." Mimi is glad that the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) dropped its famous 2x2 rule--no screens for the first two years, and no more than two hours a day until a child hits 18. She argues that this rule fed into stigma and parent-shaming around screen time at the expense of what she calls "connected parenting"--guiding and engaging in kids' digital interests.

One example of my attempt at connected parenting is watching YouTube together with Kio, singing along with Elmo as Kio shows off the new dance moves she's learned. Everyday, Kio has more new videos and favorite characters that she is excited to share when I come home, and the songs and activities follow us into our ritual of goofing off in bed as a family before she goes to sleep. Her grandmother in Japan is usually part of this ritual in a surreal situation where she is participating via FaceTime on my wife's iPhone, watching Kio watching videos and singing along and cheering her on. I can't imagine depriving us of these ways of connecting with her.

The (Unfounded) War on Screens

The anti-screen narrative can sometimes read like the War on Drugs. Perhaps the best example is Glow Kids, in which Nicholas Kardaras tells us that screens deliver a dopamine rush rather like sex. He calls screens "digital heroin" and uses the term "addiction" when referring to children unable to self-regulate their time online.

More sober (and less breathlessly alarmist) assessments by child psychologists and data analysts offer a more balanced view of the impact of technology on our kids. Psychologist and baby observer Alison Gopnik, for instance, notes: "There are plenty of mindless things that you could be doing on a screen. But there are also interactive, exploratory things that you could be doing." Gopnik highlights how feeling good about digital connections is a normal part of psychology and child development. "If your friends give you a like, well, it would be bad if you didn't produce dopamine," she says.

Other research has found that the impact of screens on kids is relatively small, and even the conservative AAP says that cases of children who have trouble regulating their screen time are not the norm, representing just 4 percent to 8.5 percent of US children. This year, Andrew Przybylski and Amy Orben conducted a rigorous analysis of data on more than 350,000 adolescents and found a nearly negligible effect on psychological well-being at the aggregate level.

In their research on digital parenting, Sonia Livingstone and Alicia Blum-Ross found widespread concern among parents about screen time. They posit, however, that "screen time" is an unhelpful catchall term and recommend that parents focus instead on quality and joint engagement rather than just quantity. The Connected Learning Lab's Candice Odgers, a professor of psychological sciences, reviewed the research on adolescents and devices and found as many positive as negative effects. She points to the consequences of unbalanced attention on the negative ones. "The real threat isn't smartphones. It's this campaign of misinformation and the generation of fear among parents and educators."

We need to immediately begin rigorous, longitudinal studies on the effects of devices and the underlying algorithms that guide their interfaces and their interactions with and recommendations for children. Then we can make evidence-based decisions about how these systems should be designed, optimized for, and deployed among children, and not put all the burden on parents to do the monitoring and regulation.

My guess is that for most kids, this issue of screen time is statistically insignificant in the context of all the other issues we face as parents--education, health, day care--and for those outside my elite tech circles even more so. Parents like me, and other tech leaders profiled in a recent New York Times series about tech elites keeping their kids off devices, can afford to hire nannies to keep their kids off screens. Our kids are the least likely to suffer the harms of excessive screen time. We are also the ones least qualified to be judgmental about other families who may need to rely on screens in different ways. We should be creating technology that makes screen entertainment healthier and fun for all families, especially those who don't have nannies.

I'm not ignoring the kids and families for whom digital devices are a real problem, but I believe that even in those cases, focusing on relationships may be more important than focusing on controlling access to screens.

Keep It Positive

One metaphor for screen time that my sister uses is sugar. We know sugar is generally bad for you and has many side effects and can be addictive to kids. However, the occasional bonding ritual over milk and cookies might have more benefit to a family than an outright ban on sugar. Bans can also backfire, fueling binges and shame as well as mistrust and secrecy between parents and kids.

When parents allow kids to use computers, they often use spying tools, and many teens feel parental surveillance is invasive to their privacy. One study showed that using screen time to punish or reward behavior actually increased net screen time use by kids. Another study by Common Sense Media shows what seems intuitively obvious: Parents use screens as much as kids. Kids model their parents--and have a laserlike focus on parental hypocrisy.

In Alone Together, Sherry Turkle describes the fracturing of family cohesion because of the attention that devices get and how this has disintegrated family interaction. While I agree that there are situations where devices are a distraction--I often declare "laptops closed" in class, and I feel that texting during dinner is generally rude--I do not feel that iPhones necessarily draw families apart.

In the days before the proliferation of screens, I ran away from kindergarten every day until they kicked me out. I missed more classes than any other student in my high school and barely managed to graduate. I also started more extracurricular clubs in high school than any other student. My mother actively supported my inability to follow rules and my obsessive tendency to pursue my interests and hobbies over those things I was supposed to do. In the process, she fostered a highly supportive trust relationship that allowed me to learn through failure and sometimes get lost without feeling abandoned or ashamed.

It turns out my mother intuitively knew that it's more important to stay grounded in the fundamentals of positive parenting. "Research consistently finds that children benefit from parents who are sensitive, responsive, affectionate, consistent, and communicative" says education professor Stephanie Reich, another member of the Connected Learning Lab who specializes in parenting, media, and early childhood. One study shows measurable cognitive benefits from warm and less restrictive parenting.

When I watch my little girl learning dance moves from every earworm video that YouTube serves up, I imagine my mother looking at me while I spent every waking hour playing games online, which was my pathway to developing my global network of colleagues and exploring the internet and its potential early on. I wonder what wonderful as well as awful things will have happened by the time my daughter is my age, and I hope a good relationship with screens and the world beyond them can prepare her for this future.

by Joichi Ito at May 08, 2019 01:51 PM

Global Voices
Brazilian indigenous people buy shares in railway company to denounce its failed environmental obligations

Indigenous peoples say the newly expanded railway impacted the area's wildlife and threatens their safety. Image: Pedro Biava, used with permission.

On April 24, the shareholders’ meeting of Rumo Logística, a Brazilian railway consortium, had a few new, unexpected faces: a group of five indigenous people of Guarani and Tupi ethnicities who had recently bought six shares of the company.

They each represent one of the five officially designated Indigenous Lands in the southeastern state of São Paulo that was affected by a 90-year-old cargo railway which Rumo operates and, in 2014, began to expand. In order to compensate for the impact caused by the railway expansion, the state contractually obligates the company to “build new houses, prayer sites, a bridge, community gardens and acquire micro-tractors” for the communities. Around 5,000 people live across the five Indigenous Lands impacted by the railway's expansion.

But indigenous representatives say the company has failed to fulfill such duties, according to a story by Folha de São Paulo. The Federal Prosecutor's Office confirms this: 63 out of the 97 renovation works provided for in the concession contract are frozen. On April 19, prosecutors recommended Ibama, Brazil's national environmental agency, to immediately suspend the new railway's construction as well as Rumo's operation license. They also recommended the agency to fine Rumo in 10 million reais (2,5 million US dollars).

In a letter read at the April 24 assembly, the five indigenous shareholders detailed their plight. They've described how the trains have affected wildlife in the area, as well as limited people's circulation. In addition, they've reported their struggle in dialoguing with the Rumo, and also discredited the corporation's latest Annual Sustainability Report, which states Rumo it is “perfectly fulfilling their obligations, in a participatory and inclusive way, with the affected indigenous communities.”

Speaking with reporter Pedro Biava of newspaper Brasil de Fato, Adriano Karai, of Guarani ethnicity, said the indigenous shareholders’ goal was simply to have their voices heard by the company's investors rather than profiting from the shares (which they bought for 17 reais each, around 4,30 US dollars).

Karai also described how the newly expanded railway has affected his community of Tenondé, located in the city of Paralheiros:

Tem o barulho do trem, que é a noite toda. Os animais não frequentam mais os locais de caça. A gente não tem mais uma noite calma. Eles também transportam muitos grãos que acabam se espalhando pelo território, e a gente sabe que aquele alimento não é de qualidade, é transgênico. (…) E a gente acaba convivendo com o perigo: o trem passa pelos nossos territórios, onde costumamos visitar as aldeias, nas trilhas. A gente corre o perigo de ser atropelado pelo trem, porque agora o trem passa a cada dez minutos.

There is the noise of the train, which runs all night. The animals don't show up at hunting places anymore. We don’t have any quiet nights. They also transport a lot of grains that end up spilling on the land, and we know that that food isn't of good quality, it is transgenic. (…) Our lives are also in danger: the train passes through our territories, where walk visiting communities through trails. We are in constant danger of being hit by a train, because now there is one every ten minutes.”

According to the Folha story, the indigenous communities initially proposed to Rumo that it outsourced the renovation works to a local committee run by the communities themselves. According to the Prosecutor's Office, the company had initially agreed, but shortly after the October 2018 election of President Jair Bolsonaro, who ran on an explicitly anti-indigenous platform, it shifted its approach. On November 20, Rumo suddenly canceled its participation at a meeting with the communities, and since then hasn't shown up at any other meetings.

Speaking with Folha, the company said it never signed any agreement with the indigenous communities of outsourcing the renovation works to their committee.

The shareholders’ assembly on April 24 ended without any formal agreements, but Rumo's representatives said that the indigenous claims will be discussed at an internal meeting in May.

Expansion works began in 2014. Around 5,000 indigenous peoples live in the area. Image: Pedro Biava, used with permission.

Shareholder activism

The Guarani and Tupi aren't the only ones engaging with so-called “shareholder activism,” a practice that isn't very common in Brazil.

In 2010, the group Articulation of those Affected by Vale (Articulação dos Atingidos e Atingidas pela Vale) purchased the company's shares in order to sit at their assemblies.

Vale one of the largest mining corporations in the world, and the operator of the dam that ruptured in the city of Brumadinho in January 2019, killing 236 people (34 are still missing).

On April 30, the day of a shareholders’ meeting, Articulation members pinned posters with the deceased people's names on the walls of Vale's headquarters, as reported by newspaper O Globo.

By voicing their concerns at those meetings, the companies are forced to register the activists’ demands in their minutes. One of the Articulation members, Carolina de Moura, herself a Vale shareholder, told O Globo:

Não vamos nos calar. A empresa tem que investir tudo o que ganha na melhoria dos rios e se preocupar com vidas humanas.

We will keep speaking up. The company must invest everything they make in improving our rivers and caring about human lives.

by Fernanda Canofre at May 08, 2019 01:50 PM

Creative Commons
Looking forward and back: Five years at Creative Commons

This month, I’ll mark five years as CEO at Creative Commons. That makes me the longest-serving CEO in the organization’s history, and it’s also the longest I’ve served with the same job title. Every day I get to work with some of the brightest, most dedicated staff and community members in the open movement. Anniversaries are a good time to reflect, and as we head into the annual CC Summit in Lisbon, I wanted to share a few reflections on where we’ve come from, and where we’re headed.

TL;DR – In the last five years we’ve rebuilt CC from the ground up, with a more solid financial foundation; a revitalized multi-year strategy and plan to focus on a vibrant, usable commons powered by collaboration and gratitude; and a renewed and growing network. We’ve developed and launched new projects and programs like CC Search and the CC Certificate program, and through it all, played a vital role in defending, advancing, and stewarding the commons.


We produced this video, entitled “Remix,” not long after I started at CC to share our new strategy.

Some key facts. In the last five years, we’ve:

  • Articulated a new vision for CC, with a 5-year strategy to bring it to life, that focuses on a “vibrant, usable commons, powered by collaboration and gratitude”
  • Developed and launched CC Search, now indexing over 300M images, working closely with partners like the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cleveland Museum, and Flickr
  • Redesigned the entire Creative Commons Global Network from the ground up, from codes of conduct to community prioritization and collaboration, with a goal of being more open, accountable, and community-led. The new network is nearly 3x larger than the previous affiliate community.
  • Established “The Big Open,” a platform to acknowledge the interconnected nature of the many communities we work in, including Mozillians, Wikipedians, Open Education, Open Science and academia, Open Government, and Open Data
  • Co-created the CC Certificate with community experts and advisors, and certified over 250 people from all over the world to be practitioners and advocates
  • Authored the State of the Commons report, published every year since 2015 to demonstrate the size and reach of the Commons online, today at over 1.4B works (with the next report out in mere days)  
  • Hosted the largest and broad-reaching community-led CC Summits ever, in Seoul, Toronto, Toronto (again), and Lisbon
  • Raised over $26M from foundations, corporations, thousands of individual donors, and dedicated event sponsors, to support our work and community around the world
  • Worked with institutions around the world to help expand and protect the commons, from the New York Met, to Flickr, to Medium, to MIT’s edX platform. In each case, we’ve been there to teach, advise, support, and advocate on behalf of CC users, open knowledge, and shared creativity
  • Built a more diverse team at Creative Commons, with a majority of both leadership and staff who are women, and a global staff that better represent the communities and cultures we serve, and the geographies in which we work

kittens-compressed

The all-new CC Search

We’ve had some difficult moments too. In 2015, CC was forced to make a round of difficult layoffs in order to stabilize our budget and program. We recovered, but those kinds of changes are painful for everyone. In 2017, we learned that CC community member and friend Bassel Khartabil had been murdered by the regime in Syria. Many of us joined together with his family and friends to create a fellowship in his name, and I’m proud to see that Majd Al-Shahibi will speak at this year’s summit as the inaugural Bassel Khartabil Fellowship recipient.

This can be a lonely and unforgiving job. People treat you like a character — like the Office of the CEO — not like a person who has feelings, hopes, and doubts. And no doubt I have made mistakes. Like many in a role like this, I constantly replay how things worked out, and wonder how I might have done them differently in a different context. I think it’s normal for leaders to do that, and I’d worry about anyone who says they regret nothing, or would never change a past decision. Most of the leaders I admire obsess about doing the right thing, both before and after the fact, but also recognize that we almost always have to do something — hopefully the right thing, or at least the best thing for the moment we’re in, with the information we have. Still, within these difficult moments lies the knowledge that everything we do moves us towards a more equitable world.

None of this work would be possible without the team of talented humans who make up the CC team. I am full of gratitude for their daily energy, excellence, and commitment to the work we do. CC is also quite fortunate to have a strong Board of Directors who have provided mentorship, advice and counsel, and helpful criticism and support. I especially want to acknowledge our former board chair Paul Brest, whose board term ended last year, and who taught me a great deal about leadership, management, and strategic planning (and logic models). Finally, I want to thank my wife Kelsey, who was an active leader in the CC movement long before I came along, and who continues to support my work as an advisor and partner.

Creative Commons Global Summit by Sebastiaan ter Burg.

What’s next?

Creative Commons’ 20th anniversary is just around the corner (Jan 15, 2021), and it deserves a celebration worthy of the organization’s reach and impact. We’ve already started planning, and we hope to create a celebration that looks as far forward as it does back.

CC Search is taking off, and we’ll soon be adding more content types like open textbooks and audio. We’re also working on enhanced search tools that will enable new types of discovery and re-use.

The CC Certificate continues to grow and sell out with each cohort. We’ll be opening up a round of scholarships to improve accessibility for anyone who wants to take the course (though all the content is also CC BY, allowing anyone to read, copy, and remix it). We’re also expanding the content to serve additional communities, like the GLAM sector.

And this year, for the first time in CC’s history, the Global Network will lead and govern itself, set priorities and drive community growth and development. That’s a profound change, and a collaborative result that I’m  certain will have an incredible impact.

There’s so much more to do, so many important ways we can help. “Pick big fights with your friends, not small fights with your enemies,” has been a favorite phrase of mine, and today there remain so many vital fights to have on behalf of shared knowledge and free culture. And CC has so many good friends to fight them with. I’m deeply grateful for those collaborations.

I look forward to doing this work for many years to come, with all of you in The Big Open.

The post Looking forward and back: Five years at Creative Commons appeared first on Creative Commons.

by Ryan Merkley at May 08, 2019 01:00 PM

Marketplace Tech Report
People in their 20s are injecting face fillers to look like their selfie filters
Selfies are an art form on social media. But some young people aren't happy with just a Snapchat or Instagram filter. They want the lip, cheek and forehead injections so their real-life faces match the doctored selfies. Marketplace reporter Erika Beras talks to host Molly Wood about her reporting on the topic, including how the makers of injectable facial fillers are spending a lot more on social media marketing. Today's show is sponsored by the University of Florida Warrington College of Business.

by Marketplace at May 08, 2019 08:30 AM

Rising Voices
Meet Dámilọ́lá Adébọ́nọ̀jọ, the host of the @DigiAfricanLang Twitter account for May 8-14

In 2019 as part of a social media campaign to celebrate linguistic diversity online, African language activists and advocates will be taking turns managing the @DigiAfricanLang Twitter account to share their experiences with the revitalization and promotion of African languages. This profile post is about Dámilọ́lá Adébọ́nọ̀jọ (@iyayoruba) and what she plans to discuss during her week as host.

Rising Voices: Please tell us about yourself.

I am Dámilọ́lá Adébọ́nọ̀jọ (aka Ìyá Yorùbá), a Yorùbá Language Specialist, Culture Enthusiast, and Tone-mark Activist.

For few years now, I have worked with a number of individuals and organizations on Translations, done Subtitles for a number of Yorùbá movies, coupled with voice-overs and taught Yorùbá Language online and offline.

I am also the founder of Alámọ̀já Yorùbá, the Independent Yorùbá Language Service Provider that provides different Linguistic services and teaches Yorùbá Language on social media on a daily basis.

My first translated English novel, “Out of His Mind“, one of Bayo Adebowale's best selling novels will soon be published in Yorùbá.

RV: What is the current status of your language on the internet and offline?

The use of Yorùbá Language on the internet is still below the average level but different from what it used to be few years back. With the emergence of so many promoters online, so many things have changed, people are beginning to at least code-mix English and Yorùbá language to pass their messages across on social media networks.

On the other hand, the offline use has not improved. So many people, especially the youths whose mother tongue is Yorùbá can not speak pure Yorùbá without including a single English word. It has gone that bad. Some do not even want to be associated with the language.

Some even go to the extent of customizing their Yorùbá names to make it sound “sophisticated”. Most of the new generation Yorùbá parents also hardly use their mother tongue to communicate with their children, hence these children are beginning to see Yorùbá as an unnecessary language.

In a nutshell, parents don't make their children see it as important.

Another perspective is that of most Yorùbá movie makers, we see the Indians, Chinese etc speak their language in their movies but reverse is the case for Yorùbá movies, they end up speaking English all through in a Yorùbá movie, it's definitely not promoting the language.

RV: On what topics do you plan to focus during the week that you’ll manage the @DigiAfricanLang Twitter account?

I intend to share the corrections of some misspelled Yorùbá words, my approach to promoting Yorùbá Language, my post schedules, appreciate many others who have done so much and are still doing so for Yorùbá and other things that cross my mind.

RV: What are the main motivations for your digital activism for your language? What are your hopes and dreams for your language?

To start with, Yorùbá has such a beautiful Language and Culture, and the sweetest part of this is that I studied this language and culture in the university so I decided to put it to practice and go digital about it. If you study courses like Law or Medicine, you probably get to become a lawyer or medical doctor, so I decided to be a full time Yorùbá Specialist. No course of study should be seen as inferior.

Another thing that motivated me is the fact that so many people who can speak Yorùbá fluently cannot write what they say correctly, I decided to get involved in order to correct their errors.

by Rising Voices at May 08, 2019 01:40 AM

May 07, 2019

Global Voices
The Brumadinho dam tragedy in Brazil has caused alarm in São Paulo, a state with over 7,000 dams

“Everybody is afraid, everyone who lives near a dam is worried”

Residents participated in a Legislative Assembly session | Image: Guilherme Gandolfi/Used with permission

This article is published under a partnership between Global Voices and Agência Mural. It was authored by Jéssica Moreira and Ira Romão.

On 25 January, 2019, a dam burst at Mina do Córrego do Feijão, in the city of Brumadinho, in Minas Gerais state, which was run by the mining company Vale. The tragedy left 235 people dead and 35 missing. The Public Prosecutor of Minas Gerais spoke of environmental crimes and voluntary manslaughter.

The disaster became a much-discussed concern in the neighbouring state of São Paulo, more specifically in Perus, a district of the state capital. Out of São Paulo state's 7,449 dams, two are located in Perus, but most of its residents had never heard of them, even 30 years after their construction.

On 20 March, residents and members of social movements in the district held the event “Are We Safe?” to discuss the condition of the dams and inform people about precautionary measures taken by the mining company and the region’s Civil Defence.

The director of a local school, professor Franciele Busico Lima, said she was asked questions about the dams on a daily basis. The 49-year-old teacher joined with other members of social movements in the neighbourhood to hold meetings and work out how to inform the residents about the risks linked to the dams.

“Everybody found out through the media. We didn’t know. We knew about the existence of the quarries but not the dams, nor the problems that this involves. We want to know”, she said.

When members of the Movement for Those Affected by Dams (MAB), a nationwide rights group, went to the state's Civil Defence offices to collect the dams’ contingency plans (to be used in emergencies), they were told that it would be ready on March 8. By the end of March, the community still hadn't seen a plan.

Franciele works at Cieja Perus, where students were asking about the dams | Image: Ira Romão/Agência Mural

Sought for comment by Agência Mural, the Civil Defence stated that the preliminary version was delivered. However, “before its release to the community, there will be an institutional review and subsequent adjustments and alterations to the Contingency Plan”.

Mobilizing after Brumadinho

São Paulo residents have been mobilizing since the first few days after the damage caused in Brumadinho (a city 554 km away).

In February, MAB organized a public hearing in the Legislative Assembly (Alesp), bringing together over 200 people affected by dams across the state, including the neighbourhood of Perus, as well as the cities of Pedreira, Americana, Votorantim, Vale do Ribeira, Santos, Cubatão and Bertioga.

“It’s surprising, the number of dams present in the state. There are more than 7 thousand – they are a type of “bomb” that at any moment could explode”, said 38-year-old Liciane Andrioli, a member of MAB.

The event acted as a starting point for the public activism surrounding those developments. “The impression it gives us is that we’re opening a black box in São Paulo state with incidents which, to our surprise, were made invisible”, Liciane said. “Both Vale and the German certification company [TÜV-Süd, responsible for the appraisal which certified the safety of the dam in Brumadinho] presented information that there wasn’t any problem, but we've experienced one of the biggest social, worker, and environmental tragedies in the country’s history”, she commented.

“Nobody knows what happens inside the companies. They only know that they want to exploit. And the question of safety is left at its mercy. Everybody is afraid, everyone who lives near a dam is worried” said 34-year-old Cleiton Ferreira, a resident of Perus and coordinator of the Quilombaque Cultural Community.

Without access to the contingency plans, it is not clear how many residents could be affected in the region. Just over 144 thousand people live in the district of Perus, and since the Brumadinho disaster the population has been concerned. There was much discussion of the topic online in groups such as “Friends of Perus Official”, which has 77 thousand members and saw over 300 comments expressing concern and distress due to the lack of information.

The feeling of fear also hangs over the streets, schools, health clinics, and other public places in the region. The big question is: where is the emergency plan and why was it never shown to the residents?

The companies

One of the region’s dams is called Pedreira Juruaçu. It's a reservoir with a capacity of 3.1 million cubic metres, occupying an area of 192,000 square metres, that holds waste material from the production of gravel, essentially fine sand and clay. It belongs to the company Embu S.A., created in 1988.

Agência Mural contacted Embu, and, according to engineer Marco Antônio Martins, the reservoir is already practically at capacity. “The structure was designed, executed and operates using the downstream method of construction, regarded by engineers as the safest for this type of dam,” he said.

He added that the company had already taken the decision to look for alternative processes for the treatment of waste material, even before the Brumadinho tragedy. “The management of Embu S.A. and the technical team feels secure and comfortable to vouch for the safety and stability of the Pedreira Juruaçu dam,” he said.

The other dam contains a water reservoir and belongs to the company Territorial São Paulo Mineração Ltd, created in 2000.

This dam is 25 metres tall, approximately 160 metres long, and has a reservoir capacity of approximately 66 thousand cubic metres. In the past, the reservoir served as a depository for material taken from rocks during the production of sand used for construction.

According to Patrícia Bueno Moreira, chief legal officer at Territorial, the dam was also built using the downstream raising method. She also emphasized that the dam has been inactive for over a year.

“It no longer receives waste material from processes of sand-washing. All the necessary studies for the confirmation of stability are continually done and our technical staff state that the structure is safe”, she asserted.

In 2017, the Public Prosecutor of São Paulo conducted a review of the two companies. In the Territorial dam, they highlighted inconsistencies linked to drainage, such as the failure to locate the outlet of the dam's internal drain. According to the report, “the obstruction of the internal drainage outlet of a dam can contribute to processes that cause a potential break.”

by Liam Anderson at May 07, 2019 10:07 AM

Marketplace Tech Report
China's retail sales are growing fast on social media
As of this week, Instagram influencers can tag products in their photos so they can sell things directly to their followers. And brands are increasingly bypassing traditional advertising and using sponsored content and social influencers to sell their goods. In China, where most internet usage is already mobile, this so-called social commerce is already the norm. And some retail shops are using China's other hot mobile trend, livestreaming, to show off goods to a real-time audience. It’s like QVC, but for social media. Jennifer Pak, Marketplace's China correspondent, says livestreamed selling takes the “fear of missing out” to a whole other level. Today's show is sponsored by AVAST, Evident and the University of San Francisco.

by Marketplace at May 07, 2019 08:30 AM

May 06, 2019

Global Voices
Do you really need to learn Japanese to live in Japan?

Oh yes, you most definitely do, according to foreigners-who-live-in-Japan Twitter

Japanese learning materials

Japanese textbooks and learner dictionaries. Image by Nevin Thompson.

In late April, the New York Times Books section posted a tweet that set off a firestorm of debate and condemnation about whether or not a long-term foreign resident of Japan should actually have to learn Japanese if they live in the country.

The tweet in question linked to a review in the New York Times of Pico Iyer's new book, Autumn Light. Iyer is a well-known essayist and travel writer who has lived in Japan off-and-on for the past twenty-five years.

The debate touched on matters such as Orientalism and how Japan has traditionally been portrayed by Western writers, the status of women in intercultural marriages and the unpaid labour that foreign-born men often rely on simply in order to function from day to day in Japan, and the hierarchy that exists in the foreigner community in Japan.

According to Iyer's publisher, the new book is intended to be “a far-reaching exploration of Japanese history and culture and a moving meditation on impermanence, mortality, and grief.”

It's unlikely that many people on Twitter actually read the New York Times review of Iyer's book. Most of the 290-some-odd replies to the original tweet, as well as a number of conversations among “foreign-residents-of-Japan Twitter” focused on Iyer's never having learned to speak Japanese despite having lived in the country for a long, long time.

Others commented on the anonymity of Iyer's “Japanese wife” who, presumably makes sure Iyer can live his life easily in Japan.

As an on-and-off foreign resident of Japan who has invested a significant amount of time learning Japanese and just trying to fit in, I was irritated by the New York Times Books tweet as well. I left a few comments on Twitter expressing my own disgust with Iyer's supposed attitudes about Japan, although I generally refrain from criticizing fellow writers and residents of Japan in public. The community of long-term foreign residents in Japan active on social media is pretty small, and the number of foreign residents writing about the country is smaller still. A disparaging remark can set up a social media feud that never ends.

On top of that, there is a small but significant number of long-term foreign residents of Japan (some of whom have naturalized and have become Japanese citizens) who stalk and harass journalists, academics and other writers who have the “wrong” opinions about Japan. It's a toxic culture that I've experienced first-hand writing about Japan at Global Voices, and that I don't want to participate in.

And yet still I left comments here and there expressing my irritation with Pico Iyer.

Why does Pico Iyer's refusal to learn Japanese inspire such vitriol? One reason could be that almost every non-Japanese Westerner who spends time in Japan feels both a sense of accomplishment for mastering simple tasks such as reading a train timetable or ordering from a restaurant menu, and a sense of disdain for other foreign visitors or residents who have not.

Not every long-term foreign resident of Japan has the time and energy to master the Japanese language, which makes it easy for those of us who can speak and read Japanese to feel smugly superior (although, in the foreign hierarchy of Japan, there is always someone who has achieved an even higher mastery of Japanese than you, and who can therefore feel even more smugly superior).

It also takes a lot of time and effort for a Westerner to establish a life in Japan. Besides learning approximately 1,800 Chinese characters and mastering 10,000 words, foreign-born residents of Japan have to become near-experts on an almost infinite number of subjects, including etiquette, tax law, history, food, and the importance of always possessing a pocket handkerchief (public lavatories almost never have paper towels for drying one's’ hands).

Doing the hard work of fitting in and making a life in the country results in a sort of feeling of ownership of the country and the culture: “How would you know anything about Japan? You don't even know the rules that govern municipal election campaigning!” (This is a real criticism I actually received recently from another long-termer trying to put me in my place.)

There's also something protective about the “long-termer” reaction to how others write about Japan. Tired tropes regularly reported in Western media about how Japanese people are not having sex or how the destroyed nuclear power plants at Fukushima are poisoning the Pacific are almost obsessively derided and debunked on Twitter and Facebook.

Twitter user @deivudesu has parodied the complicated social hierarchy of foreigners in Japan in a widely-shared diagram that, in spite of being tongue-in-cheek, shows just how much status matters.

Who looks down on whom in Japan

“Who looks down on whom in Japan's foreign community.” Image courtesy Twitter user @deivudesu, not for reproduction without permission.

Yet the more hard-won the lessons we learn about the country, the more some of us realize how mundane life in Japan actually is. Specialty Kitkat chocolate bars, vending machines, Zen temples, and capsule hotels and trains that run on time are all just background noise and are totally unremarkable. Fax machines are actually still regularly used in many countries around the world, and not just in Japan. It's actually quite straightforward to take part in a supposedly insular culture.

Do you really need to learn Japanese to live in Japan? Like anything else in life, the correct answer to this question is entirely personal. At the end of the day, no matter where in the world you live, it's totally up to the individual whether life is mundane, rich with variety, or mysterious.

 

 

by Nevin Thompson at May 06, 2019 09:20 PM

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