USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup

United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, October 25 - 31, 2012

Table of Contents

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which includes a special section on Internet and social media.**

Syria's Digital Proxy War
There is a proxy war going on in Syria, one measured in megabytes rather than in arms. On one side, Iran is providing Bashar al-Assad's regime with the tools to locate and bait the Syrian opposition. On the other side, the United States is trying to help the opposition protect itself from such attacks and set up alternate channels of communication. The outcome of this proxy war will affect the lives of many Syrians and the credibility of the State Department's efforts to promote digital freedom.
See the full article (Atlantic, Sean Lyngaas, 10/31/12)
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Use 'Hydro-diplomacy' to Avert Future Water Conflict - Experts
Population growth, urbanisation, industrialisation and climate change are putting pressure on the world's river basins, and "hydro-diplomacy" is essential if water-related conflicts are to be avoided, experts said on Wednesday. Cooperation between countries and between different groups within countries, as well as improved political will and the larger participation of societies could help defuse tensions over water and improve governance of water resources.
See the full article (AlertNet, Thin Lei Win, 10/31/12)
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Data Triage and the Cyber Age
While the media has been getting itself worked up about the fact that American UAVs have broadcast video streams over unencrypted communications channels for years now, some in the military are taking a more nuanced approach to what battlefield data must be super secure. In light of ever-evolving cyber threats aimed at stealing as much data from -- well, everyone -- as possible, the Army is seeking to triage threats to its networks.
See the full article (Foreign Policy, John Reed, 10/30/12)
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Kenya Building a Digital Future in Africa's Silicon Savannah
If there is such a thing as an African version of California's Silicon Valley, the country that is arguably leading the race to the future is Kenya. Household tech names such as Google, Intel, Microsoft, Nokia and Vodafone all have a presence here, and IBM recently chose Nairobi for its first African research lab. How did Kenya - a nation that still has its share of poverty and ethnic conflict - get here?
See the full article (Guardian, David Smith, 10/30/12)
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Muzzled by the Bots
With the help of "big data," content-moderation software can check the relative frequency with which such expressions have been used on other popular sites and investigate the actual commentators using them. Just imagine what kind of new censorship possibilities open up once moderation decisions can incorporate geolocational information: Why not block comments, videos, or photos uploaded by anyone located in, say, Tahrir Square or some other politically explosive location?
See the full article (Slate, Evgeny Morozov, 10/26/12)
Click to read "Truth in Reporting: Media and Communications in Conflict," a USIP Olive Branch post by Anand Varghese.
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U.S. Expands Secretive Drone Base for African Shadow War
The Pentagon's secretive drone and commando base in the Horn of Africa is getting a lot bigger and a lot busier as the U.S. doubles down on its shadowy campaign of air strikes, robot surveillance and Special Operation Forces raids in the terror havens of Yemen and Somalia. The Djibouti base is just one of a constellation of hush-hush U.S. drone, commando or intelligence facilities in East Africa. Others are located in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and the island nation of the Seychelles.
See the full article (Wired, David Axe, 10/26/12)
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The Cyber Trade War
The fear of vulnerability from foreign technology, whether reasonable or not, is as present in China as it is in the United States -- now more than ever. The threats China sees from dependence on foreign telecommunications, software, and hardware suppliers echo many of the concerns raised in the House [Select Intelligence Committee] report: both countries fear that dependence on foreign technology makes them vulnerable to spying and threatens network security and economic development.
See the full article (Foreign Policy, Adam Segal, 10/25/12)
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