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EU must work harder to tackle disinformation

- July 2, 2019 in disinformation, eu, News

The European Union must work harder to tackle the spread of disinformation on the internet, the Open Knowledge Foundation has warned. In a letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, chief executive Catherine Stihler has called for action to be ‘prioritised’ regarding online platforms that fail to do enough to tackle disinformation or do not fulfil promises made. She said ‘no sufficient progress has been made in developing tools to increase the transparency and trustworthiness of websites hosting adverts’, and Google and Twitter need to take steps to ensure the transparency of issue-based advertising. The letter comes after disinformation was discussed at last month’s European Council summit. Catherine Stihler, chief executive of the Open Knowledge Foundation, said:
“Words are not enough in this battle to build a fair, free and open future. It is essential that the European Commission prioritises action regarding online platforms that fail to do enough to tackle disinformation or do not fulfil promises made. I firmly believe the institutions of the European Union must use their influence to force online platforms to provide more detailed information allowing the identification of malign actors, put pressure on Google and Twitter to increase transparency, and encourage closer working with fact checkers to prevent the spread of disinformation. The best way to tackle disinformation is to make information open, allowing journalists, developers and the research community to carry out analysis of disinformation operations.

With upcoming national elections across the EU, this is of paramount importance to help rebuild trust in politics and build a fair, free and open future.”

New Open Knowledge Foundation board chair and vice-chair appointed

- June 25, 2019 in News, Open Knowledge Foundation

The Open Knowledge Foundation is delighted to announce that Vanessa Barnett has been appointed as the new Chair of the Board of Directors, and Helen Turvey has been appointed as Vice-Chair. Vanessa Barnett said:
“It is a great honour to be appointed Chair of the Open Knowledge Foundation, at an incredibly exciting time for the organisation. We’re returning to our founding principles and fighting for a fair, free and open future. Our mission is to create an open world, where all non-personal information is open, free for everyone to use, build on and share; and creators and innovators are fairly recognised and rewarded. Our vision has never been more important, and I am excited to be supporting the organisation as Chair.”

Helen Turvey said:
“I’m delighted to be appointed Vice-Chair at a time when the Open Knowledge Foundation is going from strength-to-strength. The world has changed dramatically since our organisation was launched 15 years ago, and we need champions for openness. I’m looking forward to working closely with the great team involved in running the Foundation.”
Catherine Stihler, chief executive of the Open Knowledge Foundation, said:
“I’m pleased to welcome Vanessa and Helen as our new Chair and Vice-Chair, and look forward to working with them. I would also like to thank Tim Hubbard for his work as outgoing chair of the board and all the members of the board who support everything we do to promote openness. The Open Knowledge Foundation is uniquely placed to address the challenges of the digital age and work towards a fair, free and open future.”
  About Vanessa Barnett Vanessa Barnett is a lawyer who helps clients who are using technology and data to innovate or disrupt established ways of doing things, with particular expertise in Internet/platform based business models. She likes working with people who are changing the status quo. She has supported her clients from household-name global brands to nimble start-ups do this for over 15 years, first as a partner at two traditional City firms and now at disruptor law firm Keystone Law. She regularly advises boards on legal matters and strategy in her role as a lawyer. Vanessa has a specific interest in the cross over between technology, intellectual property and data, and right now is spending most of her working time advising on data related projects. She holds a degree in Law from Exeter University, is the founding author of the Internet section of Practical Commercial Precedents and sits on its editorial board. She is also on the editorial board of Digital Business Lawyer About Helen Turvey Helen has spent the past two decades working to make philanthropy better. She is honoured to have spent over half of that time working with the Shuttleworth Foundation, an organisation brave and nimble enough to be truly experimental in their approach to changing the world and its own DNA along with it. Having spent time at the beginning of her career travelling, learning and keynoting on most continents, Helen now spends her time working with the Fellows and Alumni of the Foundation, building, supporting, strengthening and enabling leaders who iterate towards a more open and equitable world. She is also on the board of several organisations that drive open ideals.

Statement from the Open Knowledge Foundation Board on the future of the CKAN Association

- June 6, 2019 in ckan, Open Data, Open Knowledge, Open Knowledge Foundation

The Open Knowledge Foundation (OKF) Board met on Monday evening to discuss the future of the CKAN Association.

The Board supported the CKAN Stewardship proposal jointly put forward by Link Digital and Datopian. As two of the longest serving members of the CKAN Community, it was felt their proposal would now move CKAN forward, strengthening both the platform and community.

In appointing joint stewardship to Link Digital and Datopian, the Board felt there was a clear practical path with strong leadership and committed funding to see CKAN grow and prosper in the years to come.

OKF will remain the ‘purpose trustee’ to ensure the Stewards remain true to the purpose and ethos of the CKAN project. The Board would like to thank everyone who contributed to the deliberations and we are confident CKAN has a very bright future ahead of it.

If you have any questions, please get in touch with Steven de Costa, managing director of Link Digital, or Paul Walsh, CEO of Datopian, by emailing stewards@ckan.org.

UK Health Secretary challenged to tackle access to medicines

- June 4, 2019 in health, News

The Open Knowledge Foundation has written to Westminster Health Secretary Matt Hancock to demand the UK Government plays its role in addressing the global lack of access to medicines. The challenge comes after the UK disassociated itself from an international agreement aimed at reducing the cost of drugs across the world. The resolution at the World Health Assembly was designed to improve the transparency of markets for medicines, vaccines, and other health products. It brought together countries including Brazil, Spain, Russia and India in recognition of the critical role played by health products and services innovation in bringing new treatments and value to patients and health care systems. By sharing information on the price paid for medicines and the results of clinical trials, countries can work together to negotiate fair prices on equal terms with the aim of lowering drug costs. Catherine Stihler, chief executive of the Open Knowledge Foundation, said:
“It is shameful that the UK Government is not willing to stand in solidarity with people most at risk of illness and death because of lack of access to medicines. We live in extraordinary times when new medical and technological advances are capable of saving millions of lives. The key to building equality for all is greater openness and transparency, and this philosophy must also be applied to healthcare. By sharing information on the price paid for medicines and the results of clinical trials, countries can work together to negotiate fair prices on equal terms with the aim of lowering drug costs. Quite simply, openness can save lives across the world.

I urge Matt Hancock to strongly reconsider the UK’s position.”

The Sum of Our Parts – Open Organisations

- May 29, 2019 in News

The “open” sector, encompassing organisations working on transparency, civic participation, and open data, has grown fast in many countries in the past decade, aided by political champions and a generous funding environment. Today, there is a sense of waning political interest amongst previous high-level advocates and an expected reduction in core funding to come. At the same time there are an emergent set of data-related issues connected to privacy, rights, automation and more, that merit new thinking and approaches. In this context, we, the CEOs of seven international open organisations – mySociety, the Sunlight Foundation, the Open Data Institute (ODI), the Open Data Charter (ODC), the Web Foundation, Open Knowledge Foundation (OKF) and the GovLab – got together to consider how to manage these shifts.

Photo by Jonas Svidras on Unsplash

We see an opportunity to achieve more impact by combining our efforts in the face of shared challenges. We share a commitment to scale and deepen the impact of our work and to communicate more clearly who we are and how we differ. Ultimately, we are looking for opportunities to become more than the sum of our parts.

As such, we undertook a process, supported by Oxford Insights and funded by the Transparency and Accountability Initiative donor collaborative, to review our current strategies and workstreams, analyse each of our organisation’s role and comparative advantages, identify areas for collaboration, and propose actions to make such collaboration a reality. What we mapped out and what we learned are cape captured in this report. We identified several areas ripe for enhanced collaboration. We categorized these under policy, advocacy, and campaigning; learning, training, and skills development; consultancy; technology and infrastructure; network and coordination; communications; and operations. Going forward, we will explore in-depth how to best collaborate on these fronts. For a guiding framework, OKF, ODI, and ODC will lead a process of defining an overarching Theory of Change for openness that articulates our strategic alignment. Finally, we also intend to collaborate more closely on joint opportunity development in both philanthropic and commercial funding, with a specific focus on how to develop joint projects with a sector-based approach. Sectors under consideration for aligned development include climate change, health and education. Funders can help here, too, by facilitating links to other funders and organisations in those fields. So far, we are already making progress on some of the report’s proposed recommendations. We have largely identified which organisations and people will lead on each proposed action item and created a spreadsheet to introduce those responsible for key areas to each other. We now have a WhatsApp group to more informally and easily share information. Work is underway by OKF and ODI on the overarching Theory of Change. Finally, our organisations are also beginning to engage each other in our strategy development process, including scheduling review sessions.  While there is still much work to do, we are making some early progress. We believe strongly that this collaboration will benefit not only our own organisations but also the broader open field. We invite other open organisations to reach out to us on any of the avenues of collaboration outlined above and join our efforts. We hope funders will take advantage of our group, too – engage us in thinking through data implications in other thematic programming. Protecting and further mainstreaming the open agenda will require many hands.  

EU Council backs controversial copyright crackdown

- April 15, 2019 in copyright, eu, Featured, Internet, News, Policy

The Council of the European Union today backed a controversial copyright crackdown in a ‘deeply disappointing’ vote that could impact on all internet users. Six countries voted against the proposal which has been opposed by 5million people through a Europe-wide petition – Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Finland and Sweden.
Three more nations abstained, but the UK voted for the crackdown and there were not enough votes for a blocking minority. The proposal is expected to lead to the introduction of ‘filters’ on sites such as YouTube, which will automatically remove content that could be copyrighted. While entertainment footage is most likely to be affected, academics fear it could also restrict the sharing of knowledge, and critics argue it will have a negative impact on freedom of speech and expression online. EU member states will have two years to implement the law, and the regulations are still expected to affect the UK despite Brexit. The Open Knowledge Foundation said the battle is not over, with the European elections providing an opportunity to elect ‘open champions’. Catherine Stihler, chief executive of the Open Knowledge Foundation, said:
“This is a deeply disappointing result which will have a far-reaching and negative impact on freedom of speech and expression online. The controversial crackdown was not universally supported, and I applaud those national governments which took a stand and voted against it. We now risk the creation of a more closed society at the very time we should be using digital advances to build a more open world where knowledge creates power for the many, not the few.

But the battle is not over. Next month’s European elections are an opportunity to elect a strong cohort of open champions at the European Parliament who will work to build a more open world.”

New report: Data journalism in Tanzania

- March 27, 2019 in Data Journalism, Featured, School of Data

Open Knowledge International and the School of Data are excited to announce the publication of a new research report into the state of data journalism in Tanzania. Data-driven journalism is an important and disruptive change in contemporary journalism practice. It is not a panacea solution to the fake news era, but it is a piece of the equation in achieving accurate, balanced, and critical reporting. The pathway to growing and optimising data journalism is imperfect, but over time, as media pushes its horizons, the field will grow cohesively. Especially in Tanzania, the efforts of trainers and advocates are integral to its lasting relevance and for pushing the limits of journalism in increasingly difficult circumstances. This report was prepared by Open Knowledge International and the School of Data for the World Bank in support of the Open Data and Accountability in Tanzania (SOGDAT) Programme funded by the UK Department for International Development. Key findings include the following:
  • Incentives to adopt data journalism matter, and opportunity costs need to be balanced carefully
  • It is key to manage expectations about the goals data journalism can achieve for media companies as well as society at large
  • Data trainings must be catered towards the work routines and needs of journalists, and should take into account how different media business models may support their uptake
  • Legal, political and social contexts influence journalism practice, the nature of reporting and the use of official figures to support media claims
The report uses semi-structured and unstructured in-depth interviews with media development experts and experienced trainers operating inside and outside Tanzania. It draws on interviews with reporters and editors from a cross-section of media houses: FM stations, print and online newspapers and TV stations produced in both Swahili and English languages. Our research was part of a wider programme of engagement with data users in Tanzania which saw the School of Data creating a local government data curriculum and providing training to stakeholders in the Tanzanian capital, Dodoma. Separately the Open Knowledge International product team built a data collection and data cleaning workflow aimed at improving the quality of geolocation data on schools in Tanzania. For further details and findings including recommendations for data trainers operating in Tanzania, download the full report.

EU copyright vote a ‘massive blow’ for internet users

- March 26, 2019 in copyright, eu, Featured, Internet, News, Policy

MEPs have today voted to press ahead with a controversial copyright crackdown in a ‘massive blow’ for all internet users. Despite a petition with over 5 million signatures and scores of protests across Europe attended by tens of thousands of people, MEPs voted by 348 to 274 in favour of the changes. It is expected to lead to the introduction of ‘filters’ on sites such as YouTube, which will automatically remove content that could be copyrighted. While entertainment footage is most likely to be affected, academics fear it could also restrict the sharing of knowledge, and critics argue it will have a negative impact on freedom of speech and expression online. EU member states will have two years to implement the law, and the regulations are still expected to affect the UK despite Brexit. Catherine Stihler, chief executive of the Open Knowledge Foundation, said:
“This vote is a massive blow for every internet user in Europe. MEPs have rejected pleas from millions of EU citizens to save the internet, and chose instead to restrict freedom of speech and expression online. We now risk the creation of a more closed society at the very time we should be using digital advances to build a more open world where knowledge creates power for the many, not the few.

But while this result is deeply disappointing, the forthcoming European elections provide an opportunity for candidates to stand on a platform to seek a fresh mandate to reject this censorship.”

Final copyright vote: MEPs must choose to save the internet

- March 26, 2019 in copyright, eu, Featured, Internet, News

MEPs will today vote on a controversial copyright crackdown that could restrict internet freedoms for millions of people. After years of negotiation, the final vote will be held on reforms that could result in automatic ‘upload filters’ which restrict what can be posted on social media platforms like YouTube. More than 5.1million people have signed a petition to ‘save the internet’, and scores of protests attended by tens of thousands of people were held across Europe at the weekend. While entertainment footage such as video game clips or copyrighted songs are most likely to be affected, academics fear it could also restrict the sharing of knowledge. The vote will be one of the last major decisions taken by MEPs before the European elections, and possibly the last by the UK’s MEPs ahead of Brexit. Over 120 MEPs have publicly pledged to vote against the crackdown, but that includes only three from the UK. Brexit does not offer an escape route from the changes, as any website that operates within the EU is likely to abide by the regulations. Catherine Stihler, chief executive of Open Knowledge International which campaigns for openness, said:
“If passed, this copyright crackdown will lead to a chilling effect on freedom of speech. It could change the web as we know it and restrict how we share research that could lead to medical breakthroughs or how we share facts to combat the spread of ‘fake news’. MEPs must choose to save the internet in this crucial vote. I particularly urge the UK’s MEPs to stand up and be counted while they still have a voice at the top table, as this will affect everyone in the UK even after Brexit. We must use digital advances for the public good and help build a more open world, not create a more closed society.”

Catherine Stihler was MEP for Scotland until January 2019. As an MEP, she was vice-chair of the European Parliament’s consumer protection committee and led the fight against the proposals. More background information on the proposal is available here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-47239600

Facebook challenged to tackle the spread of ‘fake news’ ahead of vital European elections

- February 26, 2019 in disinformation, fake news, Featured, News, Open Knowledge

Facebook’s global affairs boss Sir Nick Clegg has been challenged to tackle the spread of ‘fake news’ on Facebook ahead of vital European elections.

Catherine Stihler, chief executive of Open Knowledge International and a former MEP, has written to the former Deputy Prime Minister to request more transparency from Facebook and its assistance in resuscitating the three foundations of ‘tolerance, facts and ideas’.

Facebook has been at the centre of a series of rows about disinformation on social media, particularly in connection with the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Ms Stihler has asked for detailed statistics on efforts by Facebook to tackle disinformation, an update on the number of fake accounts the platform continues to host, what progress is being made on working with third-part fact-checkers in the EU27, and a response to this week’s Commons report which concluded that Facebook needs stricter regulation to end the spread of ‘fake news’.

In her letter to Sir Nick, Catherine Stihler wrote:

“It is imperative that we do not allow disinformation and fake news to blight this year’s European Parliamentary elections.

The acceptance of basic facts is under threat, with many expert views dismissed and a culture of ‘anti-intellectualism’ from those on the extremes of politics.

The way forward is to resuscitate the three foundations of tolerance, facts and ideas, to prevent the drift to the extremes, and Facebook has a vital role to play in that.

With the rise of extremist parties across the continent, we owe it to the people of Europe to let the facts be heard in the run-up to these crucial elections.”

On 11 February, Open Knowledge International joined a group of 35 organizations led by Mozilla that published an open letter to Facebook. Our ask to Facebook: make good on your promises to provide more transparency around political advertising ahead of the 2019 EU Parliamentary Elections. You can read the full letter and add your signature here if you wish to add your support to the campaign.