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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.

EU’s chilling copyright crackdown an ‘attack on openness’

- February 14, 2019 in copyright, eu, Internet, News

EU negotiators have struck a deal over copyright reform that is an ‘attack on openness’, the new chief executive of Open Knowledge International has warned. Catherine Stihler, a former MEP and vice-chair of the European Parliament’s consumer protection committee, said the changes will restrict internet freedoms for millions of users. The agreement will require platforms such as Youtube, Twitter or Google News to take down user-generated content that could breach intellectual property and install filters to prevent people from uploading copyrighted material. That means memes, GIFs and music remixes may be taken down because the copyright does not belong to the uploader. It could also restrict the sharing of vital research and facts, allowing ‘fake news’ to spread. The proposed changes will now head to the European Parliament for a vote among all MEPs in March or April. Open Knowledge International is a non-profit organisation which fights for open data and helps groups access and use data to address social problems. Catherine Stihler, chief executive of Open Knowledge International, said:
“This deeply disappointing deal is an attack on openness. The copyright crackdown will lead to a chilling effect on freedom of speech across the EU. We want people to be empowered to build, share and reuse their own data and content freely and openly, and this move goes against that principle. It does not enhance citizens’ rights, and could lead to Europe becoming a more closed society – restricting how we share research that could lead to medical breakthroughs or how we share facts to combat the spread of ‘fake news’. I urge MEPs to vote down this proposal and fight for a future where our world is more open.”

For more information on how you can help save your internet, you can visit saveyourinternet.eu or sign the online petition along with millions of others.

Catherine Stihler appointed new CEO of Open Knowledge International

- November 30, 2018 in Featured, News, Open Knowledge International

Catherine Stihler has been appointed as the new Chief Executive Officer of Open Knowledge International. Catherine has years of experience in the creation and sharing of knowledge on the global stage. She will join the OKI team in February, and will stand down as an MEP at the end of January after an extraordinary career in EU policy-making spanning nearly 20 years. Catherine has served as an MEP for Scotland since 1999, where she lives with her husband and young children. In this role she has served as Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection committee and authored influential reports and opinions that have shaped EU policy. She is also the former Rector of the University of St Andrews – where she received an honorary doctorate earlier this year. She has worked on digital policy, prioritising the digital single market, digital skills, citizen online data protection, copyright reform to support internet freedoms, and the role of Artificial Intelligence and automation.

Catherine Stihler, photo by DAVID ILIFF, CC-BY-SA 3.0

Catherine Stihler said:
“I am relishing an exciting new challenge and opportunity with Open Knowledge International. “Digital skills and data use have always been a personal passion, and I am eager to assist groups across the world to create and share open knowledge, and encourage the next generation to understand that information is power which can be used to address poverty and other social challenges.”
Tim Hubbard, Chair of the Open Knowledge International board, said:
“We are delighted to welcome Catherine to our team. She has years of experience in shaping policy and using evidence and openness to help address global challenges such as climate change, internet freedoms and public health. “Catherine has demonstrated an ability to bring people together, building coalitions and trust in a world that really needs it. She has translated complicated and technical knowledge around digital skills, copyright and AI to help shape European policy, making a real and lasting difference for hundreds of millions of people.
“Her dynamism, energy and commitment will be invaluable for the open movement as we face the new challenges of the 21st century.”

Open Knowledge International needs a new CEO – Could this be you? Apply by 1 October

- September 25, 2018 in job, Jobs, Open Knowledge International

The space around us is changing and Open Knowledge International needs a CEO who can help refine our identity and mission in this changing context. We are looking for someone who is entrepreneurial, creative and can work out what open means today, turning our mission into reality. You will be able to harness our activist ethos to deliver the services and products while ensuring the sustainability of the organisation and our mission. The application deadline closes this Monday, 1 October 2018. As the leader of our organisation, you will be in charge of directing our activities, shaping our fundraising and business development efforts, and nurturing our relationships with our funders, partners and communities, while welcoming and pursuing new opportunities and collaborations for open data. You will translate the open philosophy into concrete streams for our clients and operationalise that vision. You will help our funders, partners and clients understand what open means for them and what standards can do to make that a reality. You might be a senior leader within the open movement, in an organisation that promotes openness or in a data driven environment, with a strong desire and a passion to make a difference and are looking for the right vehicle to make that change. You have experience in operationalising the mission for organisations and are now looking for the opportunity to articulate the vision. Translating that vision in a changing context of user expectations, government and corporate ideologies and politics excites you. For more information on the role, click here.   About us Open Knowledge International (OKI) is a multi-award winning international not-for-profit organisation. We build tools and communities to create, use and share open knowledge — content and data that everyone can use, share, build on, and ultimately make informed decisions as a result. Ours is a mixed business model, undertaking both grant and commercial projects, and fundraising to cover our core work. Partnerships and networks are essential to our impact and we see ourselves as part of a global network of communities, organisations, advocates, government officials and activists. We are supported by a Board of Directors and staff who are passionate about what we do.   Why we do what we do Our world seems to be closing or threatening to close in a whole range of ways. Knowledge is a part of how power plays out, about who can own and use it and make an impact in the world. Open Knowledge International wants to be part of getting that right. OKI, as a part of the broader open movement and network of organisations has been focused on:
  • working with civil society organisations help find value of open data for their mission and work,
  • providing organisations with the tools and skills to effectively use data, and
  • help make government efforts around information sharing responsive to civil society needs.
We believe this is important, this matters; this is necessary for making the world a better place. If you are enthused about our mission and believe you can lead us into the next chapter of our journey, please get in touch before 1 October 2018.

IODC 2018: The hard questions for the future of open data

- September 24, 2018 in Events, Featured, IODC, iodc18

The latest edition of  the International Open Data Conference (IODC) is just around the bend. We’ll be discussing open data during the entire week in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Through a series of pre-events, including symposiums, discussion panels and workshops as well as the main conference, we will discuss with open data practitioners, advocates, and researchers about the future of open data. This type of conference is important since it allows us to engage with people in different contexts, who may think differently from us and it allows us to learn  through all the discussions.

Our hope: being constructively critical and don’t fear to talk about what does not work

There are some questions like, who does open data work for? Is it really for “everyone”? And if it is not, how do we serve people who are not necessarily interested in open data data but could benefit from it? These questions are not new – in fact some have been around from the very beginning of open data. In order to advance we want to discuss if those are indeed the right questions. We acknowledge that there may be many views about this. As an example, some may think of the ‘open’ in open data as just a mechanism of sharing data. To us, open is much more than that: ‘open’ is a key value of the societies that we strive for, while being balanced appropriately with concerns around privacy and security.  We will grasp the opportunity of having these great minds in one place and gather different voices from the open data space present at the conference. We will start asking some of the uncomfortable questions that will let us know if open data is actually heading into the future – or are we doing business as usual since 2008? Do we frame and think about societal problems in the right way? Has discourse around empowerment, transparency, accountability run out of steam? Must the political side of open data (fiscal transparency) become ‘more political’? We suggest questions that are not straight-forward to answer. We acknowledge this and want to gather the variety of points of view before drawing conclusions.

Where we from Open Knowledge International will be

Open Knowledge International is represented at IODC by Sander van der Waal (@sandervdwaal), Danny Lammerhirt (@danlammerhirt) and Oscar Montiel (@tlacoyodefrijol). We want to join the discussions about the future of open data, engaging in the following debates (among others): From our point of view, these spaces will start addressing some of the larger questions of the open data space. We feel like these debates are critical in their approach to the discourse of openness. It is crucial that look beyond open data for data’s sake, overlooking the political issues of this work. We will also be helping facilitate workshops and present about our work on Fiscal Transparency, School of Data and Frictionless Data. Join us at the Open Contracting in Practice workshop on Tuesday morning, the refresh of the Open Data Principles workshop on Tuesday afternoon,  and the Data Standards Day on Wednesday. So, if you’re in Buenos Aires as well we look forward to hearing from you; please come find us and discuss these questions! Or attend one of our sessions. If you’re not attending, please reach out on Twitter to @okfn or to one of us directly.  

Open Knowledge International needs a new CEO – Could this be you?

- August 1, 2018 in Featured, job, Jobs, Open Knowledge International

The space around us is changing and Open Knowledge International needs a CEO who can help refine our identity and mission in this changing context. We are looking for someone who is entrepreneurial, creative and can work out what open means today, turning our mission into reality. You will be able to harness our activist ethos to deliver the services and products while ensuring the sustainability of the organisation and our mission. As the leader of our organisation, you will be in charge of directing our activities, shaping our fundraising and business development efforts, and nurturing our relationships with our funders, partners and communities, while welcoming and pursuing new opportunities and collaborations for open data. You will translate the open philosophy into concrete streams for our clients and operationalise that vision. You will help our funders, partners and clients understand what open means for them and what standards can do to make that a reality. You might be a senior leader within the open movement, in an organisation that promotes openness or in a data driven environment, with a strong desire and a passion to make a difference and are looking for the right vehicle to make that change. You have experience in operationalising the mission for organisations and are now looking for the opportunity to articulate the vision. Translating that vision in a changing context of user expectations, government and corporate ideologies and politics excites you. For more information on the role, click here.   About us Open Knowledge International (OKI) is a multi-award winning international not-for-profit organisation. We build tools and communities to create, use and share open knowledge — content and data that everyone can use, share, build on, and ultimately make informed decisions as a result. Ours is a mixed business model, undertaking both grant and commercial projects, and fundraising to cover our core work. Partnerships and networks are essential to our impact and we see ourselves as part of a global network of communities, organisations, advocates, government officials and activists. We are supported by a Board of Directors and staff who are passionate about what we do.   Why we do what we do Our world seems to be closing or threatening to close in a whole range of ways. Knowledge is a part of how power plays out, about who can own and use it and make an impact in the world. Open Knowledge International wants to be part of getting that right. OKI, as a part of the broader open movement and network of organisations has been focused on:
  • working with civil society organisations help find value of open data for their mission and work,
  • providing organisations with the tools and skills to effectively use data, and
  • help make government efforts around information sharing responsive to civil society needs.
We believe this is important, this matters; this is necessary for making the world a better place. If you are enthused about our mission and believe you can lead us into the next chapter of our journey, please get in touch.