These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Protecting Journalism Sources in the Digital Age
While the rapidly emerging digital environment offers great opportunities for journalists to investigate and report information in the public interest, it also poses particular challenges regarding the privacy and safety of journalistic sources. These challenges include: mass surveillance as well as targeted surveillance, data retention, expanded and broad antiterrorism measures, and national security laws and over-reach in the application of these. All these can undermine the confidentiality protection of those who collaborate with journalists, and who are essential for revealing sensitive information in the public interest but who could expose themselves to serious risks and pressures. The effect is also to chill whistleblowing and thereby undermine public access to information and the democratic role of the media. In turn, this jeopardizes the sustainability of quality journalism.
Everything We Knew About Sweatshops Was Wrong
New York Times
In the 1990s, Americans learned more about the appalling conditions at the factories where our sneakers and T-shirts were made, and opposition to sweatshops surged. But some economists pushed back. For them, the wages and conditions in sweatshops might be appalling, but they are an improvement on people’s less visible rural poverty. As the economist Joan Robinson said, “The misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all.” Textbook economics offers two reasons factory jobs can be “an escalator out of poverty.” First, a booming industrial sector should raise wages over time. Second, boom or not, factory jobs might be better than the alternatives: Unlike agriculture or informal market selling, these factories pay a steady wage, and if workers gained skills valued by the market, they might earn higher wages. Factories may also have incentives to pay more than agricultural or informal market work to persuade workers to stay and be productive. Expecting to prove the experts right, we went to Ethiopia and — working with the Innovations for Poverty Action and the Ethiopian Development Research Institute — performed the first randomized trial of industrial employment on workers. Little did we anticipate that everything we believed would turn out to be wrong.
Development aid rises again in 2016 but flows to poorest countries dip
Development aid reached a new peak of USD 142.6 billion in 2016, an increase of 8.9% from 2015 after adjusting for exchange rates and inflation. A rise in aid spent on refugees in donor countries boosted the total – but even stripping out refugee costs aid rose 7.1%, according to official data collected by the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC). Despite this progress, the 2016 data show that bilateral (country to country) aid to the least-developed countries fell by 3.9% in real terms from 2015 and aid to Africa fell 0.5%, as some DAC members backtracked on a commitment to reverse past declines in flows to the poorest countries.
How Mark Zuckerberg Should Give Away $45 Billion
For a long time, the way philanthropy worked was simple: Rich people gave their money to museums and churches and opera houses and Harvard. Their names went up on buildings, charities gave them made-up awards, their grandkids went to rehab, the Earth went around the sun. But philanthropy is changing. Today's billionaires are less interested in legacy institutions, less obsessed with prestige and perpetuity. Part of this is a function of their age: In 2012, 4 percent of America’s biggest charitable donations were made by people under 50 years old. In 2014, a quarter of them were. The other factor driving the new philanthropists is how they earned their money in the first place. Last year, six of the 10 largest charitable donations in the United States came from the tech sector, solidifying Silicon Valley’s place as the epicenter of the newer, bigger, disrupty-er philanthropy. There, tech billionaires form “giving circles” to share leads on promising charities, and they hire the same consultants to vet them. They use terms like “hacker philanthropy” and “effective altruism.” These guys—they are mostly guys—believe that they became successful businessmen by upending existing institutions, by scaling simple ideas, by "breaking shit." And, with few exceptions, that is how they plan to become successful philanthropists, too.
The Internet of Things Needs a Code of Ethics
In October, when malware called Mirai took over poorly secured webcams and DVRs, and used them to disrupt internet access across the United States, I wondered who was responsible. Not who actually coded the malware, or who unleashed it on an essential piece of the internet’s infrastructure—instead, I wanted to know if anybody could be held legally responsible. Could the unsecure devices’ manufacturers be liable for the damage their products? Right now, in this early stage of connected devices’ slow invasion into our daily lives, there’s no clear answer to that question. That’s because there’s no real legal framework that would hold manufacturers responsible for critical failures that harm others. As is often the case, the technology has developed far faster than policies and regulations.
Photo credit: Flickr user fdecomit
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