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Mocking Ecuador’s President Can Cost You Online Anonymity

Imagen del autor, utilizada con autorización.

Image by the author, used with permission.

The public battle between social media satirists Crudo Ecuador and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa continues. 

Que soy financiado, pagado a tiempo completo, que tengo un software de inteligencia, que soy parte de la restauración conservadora, y todos mis otros “secretos”… escúchelos aquí :)

Posted by Crudo Ecuador on Saturday, January 17, 2015

That I am funded, paid for full-time work, I have intelligence software, I'm part of the conservative restoration, and all my other “secrets” … listen to them here :)

After sending a threatening gift of flowers and exposing the individuals behind Crudo Ecuador, however, the Internet satirists surrendered, using the hashtag #UstedGanó (#YouWon).

Bueno señores, hasta aquí llegó todo.Gracias a todos los que moralmente me apoyaron en este proyecto, pero no puedo…

Posted by Crudo Ecuador on Thursday, February 19, 2015

Well, gentlemen, everything's come to this. Thanks to everyone who supported me morally in this project, but I can not …

On February 25, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights posted a statement urging the Ecuadorian government to protect the rights of the individuals behind Crudo Ecuador, as well as their families’ rights.

Además, la Relatoría Especial recuerda que “[t]anto el derecho a la libertad de pensamiento y expresión como el derecho a la vida privada protegen al discurso anónimo frente a restricciones estatales. La participación del debate público sin revelar la identidad del emisor es una práctica usual en las democracias modernas. La protección del discurso anónimo favorece la participación de la personas en el debate público ya que –al no revelar su identidad— pueden evitar ser objeto de represalias injustas por el ejercicio de un derecho fundamental”.

Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur highlights “the right to freedom of thought and expression, as well as the right to privacy and anonymity against state restrictions. Participating in public debates without revealing one's identity is a common practice in modern democracies. The protection of anonymous speech cultivates individuals’ participation in public debates, as concealing their identity can protect them against unfair retaliations for exercising their fundamental rights.”

Nationally, few civil-society organizations have joined the Manifesto for the Freedom of Expression, Anonymity, and Online Privacy in Ecuador, though several international organizations have signed.

Municipal Referendum to Preserve Skopje Shopping Centre Scheduled

The local council of the Municipality of Centar, part of the Skopje downtown area, approved a proposal to hold a referendum to preserve the authentic look of the iconic Skopje Shopping Center. As Meta.mk reports, the referendum will take place on April 26. For the referendum to be successful, it needs a turnout of 50 percent plus one of the registered voters in the Municipality of Centar to vote in favor of preserving the original edifice.

The decision is the result of a two-year-long campaign to save the landmark from a faux-baroque reconstruction plan. The Skopje City Shopping Center is known by the local acronym GTC.

“GTC requires nurturing, renovation, reconstruction, while not losing the concept and function. Project for changing the look of GTC means distorting the essence of the object. The investor who will reconstruct the facility has to know the essence and what does GTC means to the citizens. We have nothing against the reconstruction of the GTC, its authenticity as a heritage must be kept,” said Danica Pavlovska from the Association of Architects.

She added that the referendum is the most democratic way to solve the problems of citizens and is something that allows the citizens to be aware of their power.

The activist campaign continues, with an aim to ensure high voter turnout at the referendum, using the hashtags ‘I love GTC’ (#ГоСакамГТЦ) and ‘GTC’ (#ГТЦ).

Centar decided! On April 26, we go to referendum to save GTC.
The voice of the citizens will be heard. Municipality of Centar voted to allow a referendum on GTC.

Prisoner of Conscience Pedro Canché's Letter to Journalist Carmen Aristegui

From jail, Pedro Canché wrote a letter to fellow journalist Carmen Aristegui after her recent and controversial exit from media group MVS. This letter was published on his Tumblr blog “Diary of a prisoner of conscience“.

15 de marzo de 2015 Carta a Carmen AristeguiA propósito del consumado golpe al equipo de investigación de MVS, en específico a tu equipo de noticias, Carmen Aristegui, ¿cuándo tendremos en México un canal de televisión o cadena de radio nacional exclusivo de periodistas?
¿Qué necesitas?
Si don Julio Scherer demostró con la revista Proceso la independencia del poder plutocrático y oligárquico del periodismo auténtico ahora le toca a una mujer aterrizar un proyecto nacional al estilo Aristegui. Todo nuestro apoyo. Es hora y tiempo de que los nuevos vientos soplen en favor del viejo arte del periodismo honesto.
Toda mi solidaridad con Daniel Lizarraga e Irving Huerta. Pero no basta con ser solidarios y pronunciarse cómodos desde el celular o la computadora ¿Qué necesitas Carmen Aristegui?
Basta con apelar a la buena voluntad de todos los mexicanos, esa minoría. Pero de férrea voluntad que lee y a la que Televisa y Tv Azteca no le han logrado chupar el cerebro y convertirlos en zombies, todo un manjar para la clase política, en especial al PRI. El PRI maldito.Todos le entramos a la cooperación Carmen Aristegui. Es muy incómodo hacer periodismo desde la palestra de la oligarquía. Bastante incómodo. Como mexicana, y sobretodo como periodista, considéralo.
Aterriza el proyecto ¿dinero? todos le entramos. Todos. Todos los que no queremos ver arder a nuestro México.

March 15, 2015. Letter to Carmen Aristegui. On behalf of the coup done to the MVS research team, specifically to your news team, Carmen Aristegui, when will we have a TV or radio channel just for journalists in Mexico?

What do you need?

If Mr. Julio Scherer while at Proceso magazine showed independence from plutocratic and oligarchic power for authentic journalism, now is the time for a woman to land a national project, Aristegui style. You have all our support. It is time for new winds to blow in favor of the old, honest art of journalism.

All my support to Daniel Lizarraga and Irving Huerta. But supporting is not enough, nor is taking a stance comfortably from your cell phone or your computer. What do you need, Carmen Aristegui?

It should be enough appealing to the good will of all Mexicans, that minority with iron will who reads and to whom Televisa and Tv Azteca have not yet brain washed and turned into zombies, into a nice feast for the political class, PRI especially. That dreadful PRI. We all cooperate, Carmen Aristegui. It is very uncomfortable to make journalism from the arena of oligarchy. Quite uncomfortable. As a Mexican woman, and above all a journalist, think about it.

Start the project, money? We all will help out. Everybody. Everybody who doesn't want to see our Mexico burn.

Pedro Canché was detained on August 30, 2014, accused of sabotage, after covering a protest against the rise in water service fees at Felipe Carrillo Puerto city hall in Quintana Roo, Mexico. As he awaits sentencing, he regularly publishes on his blog images, videos, phrases and thoughts about freedom of expression with the help of organizacion Article19.

The Collapse of Civilisation Is Already a Reality for the Children of Ambovombe, Madagascar

Children in Ambovombe, Madagascar. Photo by John Strauss Kotovaoarivelo, posted on Facebook.

Children in Ambovombe, Madagascar. Photo by John Strauss Kotovaoarivelo, posted on Facebook.

A scientific publication in the Journal of Ecological Economics argues that “over-exploitation of either Labor or Nature will result in a societal collapse” if nothing is done to prevent it.

Based on a mathematical model, the study explains (via The Guardian) that the convergence of ” the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity” and “the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or “Commoners”) [poor]” will increase the likelihood of the fall of society as it was observed for previous human civilizations.

That collapse is already a reality in the south of Madagascar, a region that has suffered recurrent bout of famine over the past decade. 300,000 people are at risk of famine in the region because of a severe and prolonged drought since November 2014. 90% of the Malagasy population live with less than 2 USD/day, a stark reminder of the growing inequity on the African continent. John Strauss Kotovaoarivelo is an accountant manager from the region. He visited the city of Ambovombe and could not hold back his tears from what he saw. He hesitated but felt compelled to share the urgency of the situation by posting photos of children fighting for their lives because of lack of food. Kotovaoarivelo writes :

Je ne peux pas me taire et faire comme si de rien n’était devant la gravité de la situation vécue au quotidien par nos compatriotes dans le sud. Ces photos parlent d’elles même. Je ne vais pas vous prendre la tête pour ces photos, mais quand même en vous bousculant juste un peu pour réfléchir avec moi sur les pourquoi et les comment de toutes ces choses qui font chaque jour le calvaire de ces pauvres gens. Je vais vous révéler là des photos pour ne pas dire des informations qui passent presque inaperçues [..]  Nos dirigeants sont occupés ou aveuglés par d’autres choses qu’ils ne pourront jamais déchiffrer le message sur les regards de ces pauvres enfants

I cannot keep quiet any longer and pretend as if nothing is happening in the face of  the grave situation that our countrymen in the south face on daily basis. These photos speak for themselves. I will not bludgeon your head with these photos, but I hope they will jost your awareness a little and help you reflect with me about the plight of these people. I am merely sharing my pictures so that their suffering will not go unnoticed [..] Our political leaders are so busy or so blinded by other things that they cannot feel the message in the eyes of these children, seeking help. 

#Pyrawebs: Online Activism Against Metadata Retention Bill in Paraguay

The retention of metadata coming from the digital environment has special relevance in Latin America, where throughout history several dictatorships have spied and collected private data to implement a policy of terror. Paraguay is not an exception. Nowadays, Paraguay is a democracy, but the use of data recalls the dangers of when dictator Alfredo Stroessner was in power. The draft bill, dubbed “Pyrawebs” (“pyragüés” means “informant” in Guarani), is generating resistance and discussions among Internet users.

Paraguay: They want Internet providers to keep users’ information for a year

The activist website Pyrawebs.tedic.org explains:

El gobierno paraguayo está a punto de ordenar a los ISP a rastrear y almacenar los datos de tráficos de los IP durante 12 meses. Estos planes se hacen con el pretexto de combatir el terrorismo, pedofilia y narcotráfico, pero que en realidad pertenecen en un Estado policial. Las políticas de retención de datos obligatorias tratan a cada uno de los ciudadanos como sospechosos con una constante e intrusiva vigilancia masiva.

Además compromete el anonimato en línea, que es crucial para los investigadores, periodistas, movimientos sociales, ONGs de derechos humanos, todos y todas aquellas que se dedican a la expresión política.

The Paraguayan goverment is at this point ordering ISPs to track and record IP information for 12 months.These plans are made with the excuse of combating terrorism, pedophilia and drug trafficking, but they really belong to a state policy. Obligatory retention policies treat every citizen as a suspect withconstant and intrusive monitoring. 

Moreover, it compromises online anonymity, which is crucial for researchers, journalists and social movements, human rights NGOs and every person who makes political expressions.

Opponents of the project object to the magnitude of the information that will be stored:

This is what they will know about you if the law is approved #pyrawebs… How much they want to know?

INFOGRAPHIC: What information does metadata tell about you?

-What you search for on the Internet and the sites you visit
-Where you work and study and all the places that you've visited
-What time you wake up
-Your political and sexual preferences
-Who you know and with whom you communicate
-Where you live

Opponents also want to follow the example of Germany, Austria or Argentina, where metadata retention has been declared unconstitutional:

MT @derechosdigital: Many countries avoid regulations on metadata retention. Why do they want to use it in Paraguay? 

The topic was on the March 5 agenda at the Paraguayan Congress, but the vote was postponed:

#Pyrawebs is postponed for 8 days. We have a week to fight and prevent idiots like Tuma having our information.

Pyrawebs invites people to sign a petition to stop the law's passage. Keep tabs on any updates by following the hashtag #Pyrawebs.

Meet Mexico's Crowdfunding Campaign Against Censorship and Bots

Foto de loquesigue.net y utilizada con permiso.

Photo from loquesigue.net, used with permission. 

The Mexican groups #YoSoyRed and #loQueSigue have organized a crowdfunding campaign to develop an open-source software that monitors and identify bots used by the Mexican government to influence public opinion and trends in Twitter.

The presentation included some harsh criticism of the groups responsible for the bot nets:

A quien usa esos bots no le gusta la libre información y el libre intercambio de ideas. Tampoco le gusta que el mundo sepa lo que ocurre en México. […] ¿Qué pasaría si aparte de actuar en masa contra los bots pudiéramos difundir masivamente y en segundos todo aquello que pretenden censurar través de un super medio que conecte a todos los medios libres existentes y blogs?

Whoever uses these bots does not like free information and the free exchange of ideas. Nor would they like the world to know what happens in Mexico. […] What if there were a way (other than using bots) to spread widely and instantly everything the authorities wish to censor through a super medium that connects all existing free media and blogs?

Two examples of how bots can endanger human lives and change trends in social networks are #1DMX and the most recent #Yasequenoaplauden. 

The following video explains how the hashtag #YaSeQueNoAplauden, a criticism of the Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto, disappeared among the trends on Twitter despite its 133,462 tweets. By comparison, the visible topic trends #MeDesmoronoComoElPAN and #MePasóEnElMetro, according to Topsy, had only 13,411 and 3,046 tweets, respectively. The video suggests that attacks employing bots caused the disappearance of the #YaSeQueNoAplauden hashtag from Twitter trending topics in Mexico and worldwide.

People from LadoB talked to Alberto Escorcia, the developer behind the crowdfunding project, who says the proposed software “would have the ability to analyze millions of messages and could also measure various parameters such as speed trends and its geographical origin.”

Así, en lugar de actuar cuando ya está el el HT creado podemos actuar antes de que surja con una algoritmo de respuesta inmediata que leyendo en tiempo real todos los tweets de México detecte cuando un grupo de bots se está formando.

So, instead of acting when the HT is already created, we can act before it emerges with an immediate response algorithm that reads in real time all the tweets from Mexico and detects when a group of bots is being formed.

If you enjoy online freedom of information, remember to contribute to Escorcia's project #YoSoyRed and #loQueSigue.

Open Letter to 60 Minutes Regarding Its Reporting on Africa

Scholars, writers, journalists and researchers write an open letter to 60 Minutes producer about the misrepresentation of Africa by the Tv program:

Dear Jeff Fager, Executive Producer of CBS 60 Minutes,

We, the undersigned, are writing to express our grave concern about the frequent and recurring misrepresentation of the African continent by 60 Minutes.

In a series of recent segments from the continent, 60 Minutes has managed, quite extraordinarily, to render people of black African ancestry voiceless and all but invisible.

Two of these segments were remarkably similar in their basic subject matter, featuring white people who have made it their mission to rescue African wildlife. In one case these were lions, and in another, apes. People of black African descent make no substantial appearance in either of these reports, and no sense whatsoever is given of the countries visited, South Africa and Gabon.

The third notable recent segment was a visit by your correspondent Lara Logan to Liberia to cover the Ebola epidemic in that country. In that broadcast, Africans were reduced to the role of silent victims. They constituted what might be called a scenery of misery: people whose thoughts, experiences and actions were treated as if totally without interest. Liberians were shown within easy speaking range of Logan, including some Liberians whom she spoke about, and yet not a single Liberian was quoted in any capacity.

Documenting the Systematic Decline of Women's Rights in Macedonia

Although southeast European countries are progressive in many other ways, the decline of women's reproductive rights in some Western Balkan countries has been a worrying trend. In Macedonia, several small protests have been held in recent years to demonstrate people's opposition to government involvement in determining public sentiment on issues like abortion and family planning, after the government implemented a national anti-abortion campaign that began in 2011.  

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“My body – my decision” sigh at a protest against new abortion law. Photo by Vanco Dzhambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

Recently, Macedonian equal rights activist Ana Vasileva, known as @Amateuress on Twitter, provided a lengthy overview of the systematic decline of women's rights in Macedonia on her blog:

In recent years Macedonia has undergone a very subtle, yet dreadfully pervasive deterioration of the situation with women's rights. Mainly unnoticed or overlooked, the government latched on the popular, deeply misogynist sentiment of the suffering mother (a metaphor often used for the country itself) and after the initial surge of promise with the introduction of the gender quotas in 2006 and the adoption of the Law on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, which paired with the history of equal treatment from the previous system led to even higher percentages in female representation in certain areas compared to the EU average[1], things started moving downwards steadily, without sufficient public resistance.

It can arguably be claimed that the ploy began with the anti-abortion posters and newspaper ads which started littering the public space out of nowhere circa 2006-2007 without anyone claiming responsibility for them…

#HackEC15 — An Open Data Challenge in Ecuador

As part of the Second International Conference on Democracy and Digital Government 2015 (ICEDEG 2015), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers is hosting Hack Ecuador Challenge 2015 (HEC'15). The event welcomes Ecuadorians with open-data apps that promise to deliver needed services in local communities, improving the nation's online ecosystem, especially in the public sector.

Why join Ecuadorian IEEE? 3) IEEE Hack Ecuador 2015. Best App Awards.

Iria Puyosa, a representative of one of the contest's organizers, told Global Voices about her expectations:

De acuerdo con los indicadores del Open Data Barometer, la política de datos abiertos de Ecuador se orienta hacia la innovación y el bienestar social. En Ecuador se dispone de datos abiertos sobre variables demográficas, educación, salud, producción agrícola, importaciones/exportaciones, transporte y telecomunicaciones. Este es el tipo de datos que pondremos a disposición de los participantes en el hackathon. Esperamos una gran participación de los estudiantes afiliados a la Sección Ecuador de IEEE. Y lanzamos el reto a los empresarios y emprendedores tecnológicos ecuatorianos para que también se sumen a procesos de innovación, usando datos abiertos.

According to indicators of Open Data Barometer, Ecuadorian open-data policy is oriented towards innovation and social welfare. In Ecuador, open data is available about demographic variables, education, health, agricultural production, import/export, transport, and telecommunications. This is the kind of data that we will make available to the participants in the hackathon. We expect that a large number of students affiliated with Ecuadorian IEEE, will attend the event. We also challenged Ecuadorian technology entrepreneurs to join the innovation process using open data.

Who is participating?
The contest will be divided into two categories: students and professionals.

What are the prizes?
Winner of first prize gets $800 in cash and a winner's certificate. The second-place winner gets a certificate, too. Winners will be announced on April 8.

You can join the Facebook group del HEC'15 or follow @OpenHackIEEE on Twitter and find out the latest news from HEC'15 using the hashtag #HackEC15.

March 4 Informational Webinar -> Sign up free and learn more about the #HackEC15

To download all the information and requirements regarding the HEC'15, click here.

Video: Campaign to Stop the Sale of Steve Biko's Autopsy Report

Artist and social entrepreneur Nomsa Mazwai (Nomisupasta) and some friends got together to collect signatures for a petition to stop the sale of Steve Biko‘s autopsy report. Watch the YouTube video of the campaign:

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