This Week In Cyberspace
By Nell Schofield
As Executive Director of Access Now, Brett has a unique insight into the role of human rights in the digital age.
Nell worked with the Lock the Gate Alliance and hosts Roadtrip on BayFM99.9 where TWICS is first broadcast live from Bundjalung Country on Australia's easternmost point.
Hard core data with a dash of downloadable humour.
This Week In CyberspaceMay 23, 2023
2.10 - Digital Ambassadors
This Week In Cyberspace we catch up with Brett Solomon in an airport in Ottawa. He’s on his way to Washington DC to find out how human rights online are being factored into Digitalisation Policies by a new breed of Digital Ambassadors. And how do these international policies align with internet freedom?
2.8 - Internet v Splinternet
The Asia Pacific Internet Governance Forum is on in Brisbane with hundreds of delegates from the region gathering to discuss how to govern the unwieldy beast that is the world wide web of things. With many large states wanting to govern the online space on their own right, how can users get a seat at the table and prevent the internet becoming the splinternet? And how can we bring a human rights agenda to internet governance going forward? Brett Solomon is on the ground to report back.
2.7 - COP28 in a Petrostate?
This year, the climate summit COP28 will be held in one of the richest oil producing Petrostates. But is the United Arab Emirates the best place to be hosting a conference about reducing carbon emissions? As one of the world's biggest emitters per capita, the UAE also has some pretty strict laws against protesting. We look at this and the use of spyware against activists in the first of our COP editions of This Week In Cyberspace.
2.6 - Mis and Disinformation from the 'No' Campaign
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has accused the 'No' campaign in the referendum on a Voice to Parliament for First Nations Australians of using AI to spread misinformation and disinformation on digital platforms. We look at the forces behind this push and the responsibility of tech giants, governments and individuals to police it.
2.5 - X marks the Spot where Twitter eXisted
The blue bird of happiness has been X-communicated. From 7 characters to just one, Twitter has become X - the personal plaything of the richest man in the world. The new brand aligns with Elon Musk's other ventures - Space X, X AI, even his son’s name X Æ A-12 (which his mother Grimes explained "represented the unknown variable, and her elven spelling of Ai (love &/or Artificial intelligence"). Musk has plans to transform X into something akin to China’s WeChat. But is that what democracies need?
2.4 - NEOM RISING
This week we turn our attention to Saudi Arabia where a futuristic megacity called Neom is being built. Tech giants Google and Microsoft have just signed massive deals to set up data storage facilities there but what are the implications of doing business with a repressive regime?
2.3 - Online Gender Based Violence
The digital dimensions of violence against women and girls online is a growing problem.
Online gender-based violence (OGBV), Cyber Violence Against Women and Girls (CVAWG), Technology Facilitated Gender-Based Violence (TFGBV) - they're all on the rise worldwide.
Acronyms aside, how can the rights of women and girls be better defended in the digital space? And why is the internet set up for so much abuse of females?
2.2 - Murky Content Moderation
While actors are concerned that their image will be used forever in perpetuity by AI, tech workers in Kenya are worried about the mental health impacts of filtering out abusive content so that we can safely use systems like ChatGPT.
Content moderators in Kenya are currently suing META for a range of things including lack of mental health support, because they have to review violent and sometimes even illegal content so that we don’t have to.
2.1 - LGBTIQA+AI
Welcome to series 2 of This Week In Cyberspace where we look at human rights in the digital age through the lens of Artificial Intelligence.
For as long as the Internet has been operative, alternative gender expression online has been a thing. But with the use of AI by corporations and governments to collect personal data, and often weaponise it against citizens, this space is no longer as safe as it once was.
Uganda has just enacted the world’s harshest anti-LGBTQ+ laws using discriminatory data sets to identify gender, emotion, and now sexual orientation. These binary codes are discriminatory in nature. So how can they be tackled?
1.25 - Science Fact - the merging of man and machine
In the final episode of Season 1 we take a closer look at Artificial Intelligence, specifically Generative Large Language Multi-Modal Models (or GLLMMMs). These Golem Class AIs have the experts spooked and yet the five giant tech companies are already rolling them out to the public with no safeguards for society. And as we know, an unregulated tech space adversely creates a toxic online environment. So how to we avert even more severe unintended consequences than doom scrolling, fake news and the breakdown of democracy?
1.24 - Australia's Hacking Act
Digital rights are being eroded in Australia with an Act of Parliament that enables surveillance, modification of data, interception of communications and even account takeovers. Earlier this year, the Attorney-General publicly released the Privacy Act Review of the Identify and Disrupt Bill, otherwise known as the hacking bill. But will this result in changes that are, in the words of Electronic Frontiers Australia; "balanced against the ever growing interests and insatiable data appetites of business and its further subordination to what is administratively convenient and expeditious for the government". Stay tuned.
1.23 - Silicon Valley Meltdown
It all began as a centre for tech utopia but it’s turned into something quite uncontrollable. Silicon Valley - home of the digitally free and technologically brave - is its own unleashed beast. But with no ethics surrounding the development of this seemingly limitless computer industry, has it now got us all by the short and curlies?
1.22 - Utopia versus Apocalypse - The AI Debate
How the hell can we protect ourselves from the rise and rise of Artificial Intelligence? As human brains compete with digital minds, The Future for Life Institute is proposing watermarking systems to trace AI provenance, and liability for harm caused by runaway products. But with Microsoft’s decision to ditch its entire AI ethics team this week, and the European Union scheduled to vote on the EU AI Act at the end of this month, what sort of disruptions to democracy are forecast? More importantly, how can they be averted?
1.21 - Do Executive Orders Spell Global Moratoriums?
There’s a growing spyware industry that uses human rights-abusing technology to spy on people’s daily business. But on March 27, just two days before the launch of the 2nd U.S. Summit for Democracy in Washington D.C., there was a major victory for human rights activists when President Biden made an executive order to ban US federal agencies from using commercial spyware.This is a significant victory for activists in this space but does it mean the end of spyware globally?
1.20 - In Bed with Democracy and Technology
With 187 Internet shutdowns in 35 countries in 2022, the relationship between democracy and technology is top of mind for many humanitarians. A prime forum to thrash out some of the nuances of this partnership will be the second U.S. Summit for Democracy, which takes place in Washington from March 29-30. Access Now is co-leading the Technology for Democracy Cohort in partnership with the U.K. and Estonian governments. It’s an impressive coalition of over 150 civil society, government, and private sector organisations across 40 countries. And Brett Solomon will be there.
1.19 - Women's Digital Rights
The United Nations is currently holding its 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women and the main theme for this 12-day think fest is: “Innovation and technology for gender equality”. It’s the first time that digital gender inequalities have been highlighted by the Commission and high time too because there are 238 million more men on line than women. At the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, Hilary Clinton famously said "Human rights are women's rights, once and for all". Now women's rights are also digital rights. We unpack some of the key issues that disproportionately affect women and girls and non-binary people online.
1.18 - Sydney WorldPride v's Global Identity Wars
Rainbow flags are flapping from police stations, shop fronts and Surf Rescue buggies thanks to Sydney WorldPride. Inclusivity and diversity is the mantra of the Rainbow Tribe, but globally, identity wars ares raging. We discuss how the LGBTIQmmunity is enhanced by digital platforms in some countries, and targeted by them in others.
1.17 - A Special Type of Evil - unauthorised blocking of Turkey's internet
“The country was a construction site. It has become a cemetery.” wrote one journalist in the wake of the mega earthquake that rocked Turkey on February 6 killing nearly 50,000 people, many of them buried beneath the rubble of poorly built apartment blocks. A further two earthquakes destroyed even more buildings weakened by the previous quake. In the midst of this natural disaster, Twitter and Tik Tok (the main modes of communication) were blocked. Survivors are pointing fingers at the Erdogan government which allowed the dodgy dwellings to go up. In return, the state is detaining people who post about it on their social media accounts.
1.16 - Emotional Recognition - another leap for mankind or a violation of your rights?
There are potentially dangerous experiments taking place in the Artificial Intelligence sphere that could shape the way we all live. The latest one is Tik Tok’s Focused View, an emotional recognition feature that targets ads to the user based on your reactions to various videos. But there are serious questions about whether it actually violates European Union laws. We attempt to get our real live intelligence around the issue.
1.15 - Exposing the digital Dictatorship in Myanmar
It’s been 2 years since the military took over rule in Myanmar. Playing from the authoritarian's playbook, the regime is using CCTV's and International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) registration to control their citizens. It's a digital dictatorship where people think that Facebook IS the Internet, and human rights abuses are hidden behind internet shutdowns. But dictatorships always fall. We explore how this one could.
1.14 - Modi and his Extraordinary Censorship Powers
In the world’s largest democracy, censorship has been running rampant around a BBC documentary that the Indian Foreign Ministry has called a “propaganda piece” made with a “colonial mind-set.” When students in New Delhi organised screenings of the two-part series, authorities called in the riot police, cut off electricity and detained the organisers. ‘India - the Modi Question’ explores the Prime Minister’s involvement in an actual riot in which 1,000 mostly Muslims were killed back in 2002. So how successful have authorities been in using their emergency powers to censor clips from the doco on social media platforms?
1.13 - A Davos Download
We reboot in 2023 with Brett Solomon (CEO of accessnow.org) fresh from the World Economic Forum in Davos where he’s been on a panel with the Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine. He also took selfies with Will I Am who loves CHAT GPT, the Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer owned by Microsoft. Nick Cave calls it ‘a grotesque mockery of what it is to be human’. Is this the end of humanity as we know it? Or are we on the brink of a brave new world?
1.12 - A Cyber Wrap of 2022
A defining moment of the past year has been the massive data breach that left millions asking the question, "Who Am I?". This question wont go away in 2023 as we try to define ourselves not only in physical spaces but online ones too. As governments around the world ramp up their use of cyber warfare, internet shutdowns like the 180 plus we saw in 2022, will continue to occur. What the world needs now, apart from love, sweet love, is more governance around data. Will it happen? Stay tuned for TWICS 2023.
1.11 - The Quest for Digital Domination
Shutting down the internet is a powerful digital weapon used by autocrats the world over. It’s currently being used by Putin in his war against Ukraine. In the past 10 months, Russia has also managed to block nearly 3,000 news websites and make civilians in occupied parts of the country pay for SIM cards with Rubels. So how can the rest of the world help restore some sense of interconnectedness in a country under such intense “Russification”?
1.10 - Is the Magic Avatar really so magic or is it stealing our Souls?
Millions of people are exploring their artificially generated, inner iridescent, cartoon essence. That’s right, with the recent release of the “magic avatar” by the photo-editing app Lensa, we can all be fantasy stars in our own lunchtime. But concerns are mounting about how it not only collects massive amounts of personal data, often sexualises your image while potentially breaching artistic copyright.
1.9 - The Elephant inside the Dinosaur or What Went Down at the 17th Internet Governance Forum
The 17th Internet Governance Forum has just wrapped up in the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, with a call to urgently connect the 2.7 billion who are unconnected by increasing infrastructure investment, fostering digital literacy, harnessing advanced technologies, and building a safe and secure digital space where fundamental human rights are realised. Our regular guest and CEO of the digital rights organisation accessnow.org Brett Solomon was there in the flesh and reports back on the elephant inside the dinosaur.
1.8 - From Amersterdam en route to Ethiopia
Brett Solomon joins us from a noisy cafe in Amsterdam for a chat ahead of the 17th Internet Governance Forum in Addis Adaba, Ethiopia. The big irony is that the northern Ethiopian province of Tigray is currently under a two-year internet blackout and this is not on the IGF's agenda yet. Nor is the situation in China nor Russia. There's a battle for control of the internet going on globally and this will be played out in Addis. As will the issue of content governance in conflict zones.
1.7 - Tech Layoffs and their impact on the Regions
The mass layoffs in the tech sector include human rights experts, specialist rights and ethics teams, and content moderators that speak local languages in places like Asia and Africa. Twitter has shed 90% of employees in India and only has one marketing person left in Japan, its second largest market. So what do these changing priorities mean and is this a reckoning for the industry?
1.6 - Has Alaa Cornered Egypt?
Things are hotting up as COP27 enters its final days and human rights defenders demand the release of Alaa Abd el-Fattah. The Egyptian-British pro-democracy activist has been on a six month hunger strike and has refused water since the climate conference began ten days ago. British Parliament is up in arms over it. Lady Boycott is concerned about human rights abuses, Lord Purvis of Tweed wants to pause the 4 billion pound trading partnership. Khalid Abdalla, the Egyptian-British actor who’ll play Dodi al-Fayed in the upcoming season of Netflix's The Crown, is also concerned. So has Alaa cornered Egypt?
1.5 - Musk Musks in his Twitterverse
Elon Musk wants to “authenticate all real humans", so why is he dressing up in red samurai gear and posing as the ‘Devil’s Champion’? The Tesla founder’s recent halloween outfit, with its inverted cross and goat’s head breastplate, seems to have inflamed conspiracy theorists who think his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter is part of a global battle against evil. It would be funny if it wasn't so serious.
1.4 Happiness and Schizophrenic Impact
This week we look to Finland for tips on how to protect human rights online and be happy. Turns out this involves some schizophrenic thinking and lots of forests. Brett Solomon from accessnow.org has been speaking with top officials in the happiest Scandanavian country, and says that instability and policy confusion means that we may just be at a tipping point where we can have some significant influence.
1.3 Surveillance Capitalism on the Rise
Facial Recognition is now so embedded in our lives that we forget how this data is being used. The securitisastion and corporatisation of everything has led to a point where our identity could be owned by a private company without our consent. How can mere mortal small fry like us reclaim our basic human rights? Hear how regulatory frameworks to govern surveillance capitalism are progressing in places like San Fransisco and Europe.
1.2 Spyware Protection
This Week In Cyberspace, we investigate spyware. It’s just been found to have been used by the Mexican army to spy on citizens. So what exactly is it, and how can we protect ourselves from it? Tune in for some digital details.
1.1 - Oversight? What Oversight?
What do you do when your identity is stolen? Laugh. There are bigger problems, like Israel and Palestine.....still. Facebook's Oversight Committee has brought down its first report and it's fascinating!