About 500 webcams will be set at country's constituencies in anticipation of municipal elections in Azerbaijan, CEC secretary Natik Mammadov said.
He noted that the country now accounts for 5000 constituencies. 10% of them will have webcams.
"This is a revolutionary decision and I would say few in the world apply this practice. The website of our commission will be available in every corner of the planet on the voting day and the voting process will be broadcast in live from 0700 till the time of closing", he said.
The Wall Street Journal has just broken a story that I have been pointing everyone's attention to for almost six months ago: the Iranian government is, indeed, using social media to intimidate its opponents, particularly abroad. Well, a six-month lag time isn't that bad:
Dozens of individuals in the U.S. and Europe who criticized Iran on Facebook or Twitter said their relatives back in Iran were questioned or temporarily detained because of their postings. About three dozen individuals interviewed said that, when traveling this summer back to Iran, they were questioned about whether they hold a foreign passport, whether they possess Facebook accounts and why they were visiting Iran. The questioning, they said, took place at passport control upon their arrival at Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport.
Five interviewees who traveled to Iran in recent months said they were forced by police at Tehran's airport to log in to their Facebook accounts. Several reported having their passports confiscated because of harsh criticism they had posted online about the way the Iranian government had handled its controversial elections earlier this year.
The Israel Defense Forces Spokesman's Office is to begin drafting computer experts with an eye toward establishing an Internet and new media department unit, Army Spokesman Brig. Gen. Avi Benayahu said Monday.
Speaking at the Eilat Journalists Conference, Benayahu said the new department would focus on the Internet's social media networks mainly to reach an international audience directly rather than through the regular media.
The new unit, as well as an initiative by the Information and Diaspora Ministry to train people to represent Israel independently on the Internet and in other arenas, were presented Monday at the conference during a panel discussion on Israeli public relations abroad.
Responding to criticism of Israel's ability to face hostile entities on the Web, Benayahu said the new program would be able to deal with the problem. He said that from each group drafted to the Army Spokesman's Office, between eight to 10 young people who are experts in Web 2.0 - YouTube, Facebook and Twitter - to be identified before induction, would be assigned to the new department. The new recruits would be put to work in the new media unit after undergoing a general Army Spokesman's Unit training course.
Time and again I stumble upon technologies that, even though very noble in their goals, are also used for malicious purposes - and with much greater success. Even though I haven't yet found any troubling uses for the technology outlined below, the potential for misuse - especially in authoritarian states - is definitely huge. So here is an initiative co-sponsored by a project at the University of Massachusets at Amherst:
We are compiling a list of oaths, dirty words, racist and sexual derogatory and other offensive terms to build new language models and software tools. The notable increase in public and private threats communicated via the Internet to Congress and the White House makes it important to do basic research that identifies the precursors of aggressive or violent behavior. Adding your uniquely offensive contribution to the list, with an associated rating from 1-7, with 1 representing a mildly offensive term and 7 representing the most foul term, will advance this work.
The site then lets you input a word/phrase and rate it on a scale from 1 to 7, 1 being the least offensive. In essence, this is crowdsourcing the gathering of foul/offensive terms so that computers can better detect them. This is probably done for worthy causes: Public Comment Analysis Toolkit [pdf], another tool from the same project at UMA aims at "enabling government officials to listen to and engage with the American public about regulations that impact their lives and businesses" (via regulations.gov).
I can only imagine how useful such technology could be for identifying the next generation of dissidents in China or Iran. It's a funny world we live in: every tweet is potentially a "precursor of aggressive behavior"...
Many governments are unhappy about Google, Yahoo and Microsoft: those are too big to bully. It's much easier to bully local search engines and email providers: they are usually too timid to complain and they have much more too lose (that's why the fact that more and more Chinese netizens seem to be drifting towards local versions of Web2.0 services - a trend spotted by Michael Anti and others - is a little bit disturbing).
But let's face it: it's very hard to beat Google at search, email and a gazillion other services that they offer. The Turkish leaders seem to believe otherwise: Tayfun Acarer, chairman of Turkey's Information Technologies and Communication Board (BTK), said that Turkish engineers are working on a Turkish search engine that is to launch in 2010. They expect it to be popular not just in Turkey but elsewhere in the Muslim world - Acarer says he is confident that "these other countries will trust our search engine".
Why would other countries want to use such an invention? Obviously, because it will have a better "editorial judgement" than Google (i.e. omit whatever leaders of the Muslim world find offensive). According to Acarer, existing search engines are "sometimes deaf to country's sensitivities". This is not the first attempt to create a search engine for Muslims - see my previous coverage here.
Acarer also announced another project called "the Anaposta" - and it sounds much more ominous than a pre-filtered search engine. "The Anaposta" would provide email accounts - with a quota of 10 gigabytes - to all of Turkey's 70 million citizens. "Every child will have an e-mail address written on his/her identity card since birth", said Acarer."So, will have a mobile network that can be used thanks to id number match and foreign networks, such as Yahoo, Gmail and Hotmail, will not be used anymore".
This doesn't get any more disturbing than this: not only would the Turkish government completely eliminate anonymity on the Internet, they would also be able to monitor all communication flows in real time, as email services would be provided by the government or structures related to the government.
"All internet communication data goes to foreign countries and then it returns. This activity has a security aspect," said Acarer. I can't be 100% certain but I think most of Turkish citizens would probably rather have their data go live somewhere on a Google server in California than to be looked at by Turkey's intelligence services - on a server in Istanbul. But then again I may be misjudging the mysterious Turkish soul.
In the furthest reaches of India's rural heartland, the cellphone is bringing something that television, radio and even newspapers couldn't deliver: instant access to music, information, entertainment, news and even worship.
Despite its rapid modernization, many of India's 750,000 villages remain isolated except for the cellphone reception that now blankets almost the entire country after a decade of rapid expansion by operators. So in villages that don't receive any FM radio stations, people have begun calling a number that has a recording of Bollywood tunes and listening to it on their headsets.
This primitive cellular "radio" service was used by close to 20 million Indians last year, phone company executives estimate.
I am getting increasingly interested in studying the role that new media plays in shaping social memory (e.g. how do blogs and social networks impact how societies remember and forget? how will historical narratives be written in the age of data abundance). Needless to say, this proves to be a very exciting and intellectually-challenging subject of inquiry (expect a long essay/review sometime in January!).
This is why I am very excited about an experiment which is now underway in Poland. Deutsche Welle has more:
A young boy in shorts and a white T-shirt, with black hair, dark eyes, and a mischievous grin - that is how Henio looks to his friends on his Facebook page.
"My name is Henio Zytomirski. I am seven-years-old. I live on 3 Szewska Street in Lublin," he writes on his profile. His birthday is March 25, 1933. He is no more than seven or eight years old. As a young Jewish boy, he was killed by the Nazis in a concentration camp.
Henio has been signed up to Facebook since August 18, 2009. "On that day, I wrote my first entry," said Piotr Buzek. The 22-year-old works in the Brama Grodzka Cultural Center in Lublin, and he is responsible for bringing Henio back to life in the virtual world. He imagines how Henio felt during his life and writes as though he were him.
"Here at the center we have collected a lot of information about Henio's life, and then I tried to imagine how this young boy experienced the world around him," said Buzek.
...By now, Henio has more than 1,700 friends on Facebook, and more are being added every day. Henio doesn't chat with them - he only writes short sentences about his life. His friends comment on what he writes - empathetically and honestly. They tell him what war means. And sometimes they can only explain to him that for many things in life there is simply no explanation.
This very brave experiment in what I dub "social media remembering" may not be "historical reenactment" the way Collingwood envisioned it but it does raise a few very interesting questions. Could Facebook, Wikipedia and Twitter function as "places of memory"? How will we come to remember events in Iran last summer given how much digital content has been produced? How will future historians make sense of it all? Lots of questions but very few answers...
Evgeny Morozov, originally from Belarus, is a visiting scholar at Stanford and a Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation.