Week in Review: January 13, 2016

by Muira McCammon

David Bowie Dies: Fans Remember Him as "Internet Pioneer"

David Bowie, an English singer, songwriter, record producer, painter and actor, died on January 10, 2016. Leo Kelion of the BBC wrote, "David Bowie is best remembered for his music - but he was also groundbreaking in his use of technology, not least his internet service, BowieNet, which launched in September 1998." Michael Reilly of MIT Technology Review reiterated the sentiment; he said, "Long before MySpace, the late rock star was focused on connecting with his fans online." Today, parts of the front page of BowieNet, a web service Bowie created, remain available on the Internet Archive.

Europe: European Court of Human Rights Says Employers Can Monitor Employees' Private Messages

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that employers can read private messages that employees send from work. The original case involved a Romanian engineer who was fired after his company found he was using a Yahoo Messenger account to send messages to his fiancée and brother. The company's policy prohibited the use of the messaging app for personal purposes. The Strasbourg-based court sided with the employer and stated that it was “not unreasonable that an employer would want to verify that employees were completing their professional tasks during working hours.” The European Court of Human Right's judgments are binding in countries that have previously ratified the European Convention on Human Rights.

Saudi Arabia: Government Detains Human Rights Activist, Questions Her Twitter Activity  

On January 12, 2016, the Saudi government briefly detained Samar Badawi for allegedly running the Twitter account of her imprisoned ex-husband, Waleed Abulkhair. The Specialized Criminal Court of Saudi Arabia previously sentenced Mr. Abulkhair to 15 years in prison.  Samar Badawi was awarded the 2012 International Women of Courage Award from Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton. Al Jazeera America reported that Human Rights Watch said Badawi was questioned Tuesday about "about her human rights activism generally and whether she controls Khair's Twitter account. Badawi denied that she controls the account." Ms. Badawi is also the sister of Raif Badawi, another human rights activist imprisoned in Saudi Arabia.  There is some ambiguity over why Samar Badawi was initially detained. Adubisi, director of the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, says that Badawi was detained for "turning the public opinion against the state" and managing Raif's Twitter account. However, Ensaf Haidar, Raif Badawi's wife and president of a foundation lobbying for his release, instead asserts that Samar Badawi was charged with running Abulkhair's Twitter account.

Turkey: After December Fine, Twitter Files Lawsuit

In December 2015, Turkey's communications technologies authority, the BTK, fined Twitter 150,000 lira ($51,000) for not removing content it had classified (http://www.wired.com/2016/01/twitters-latest-challenge-is-deciding-whos-a-terrorist/) as "terrorist propaganda." A Turkish official admitted that much of the material in question had ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a group the Turkish government considers to be a terrorist organization. This month, Twitter filed a lawsuit in an Ankara court seeking to annul the fine. Meanwhile, Turkish media outlets [TR] have begun to ask if Jack Dorsey, Twitter's CEO, could be arrested for his company's behavior. Nearly two years ago, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to "eradicate" the site and since then, tension between the micro-blogging company and the Turkish government have worsened. This incident marks the first time in which Turkey's communications technologies authority has tried to fine Twitter.

United States: New York Public Library Makes 180,000 Public Domain Images Available Online

On January 6, the New York Public Library released more than 180,000 of its public-domain images - including sheet music, letters, manuscripts, posters, and maps. Shana Kimball, Manager, Public Programs and Outreach, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, NYPL Labs encouraged netizens to use the database: "No permission required, no hoops to jump through: just go forth and reuse!".  Ben Vershbow, the director of the library system’s technology division commented, “We see digitization as a starting point, not end point…we don’t just want to put stuff online and say, ‘Here it is,’ but rev the engines and encourage reuse.” The digitized items are available as high-resolution downloads through the library's public domain repository.