The Wizard of Big Data

Georgetown University recently featured Kalev Leetaru, the 2013-14 Yahoo Fellow in Residence of International Values, Communications Technology and the Global Internet at Georgetown’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy. An expert in big data analysis, Kalev’s work has led to him being named one of the Leading Global Thinkers for 2013 by Foreign Policy magazine among other accolades. Learn more about his work, the GDELT project, and his plans to change the world using data, policy and diplomacy here.

Yahoo Change Your World- Amman, Jordan 2014



Women. Social Media. Technology. Gender Equality. Human Rights.
Are you ready to #ChangeYourWorld?

At Yahoo, we see how ordinary people use technology to do extraordinary things every day.  To shine the light on them, we’re once again bringing inspirational leaders together for a very special event. Today we’re officially announcing the next chapter of our Change Your World series: Change Your World Amman, a conference about women who are harnessing the power of technology and media to change the world.

The day will be MC’ed by award-winning journalist, strategist, entrepreneur and all-around rock star, Lara Setrakian, and it will be a celebration and a provocation. We will highlight artists, musicians, activists, journalist, entrepreneurs, policy advocates and poets, all bound by the determination to be the change they wish to see in the world. We will be highlighting a range of stories in the region, from the rise of digital entrepreneurs, to people advocating for peace in Syria to women using photography and film to tell stories behind stereotypes in Palestine.

Connect , learn more about the stories behind our panelists, and join @yahoobhrp in the conversation. Let us know how you’re using technology and social media to #changeyourworld! We’ll be sharing tweets with our amazing set of panelists on event day.


Event MC: Lara Setrakian, Founder of Syria Deeply

**Additional panelists are being confirmed; stay tuned for updates**

Panel #1: Media & Journalism What role has media played in bringing attention to humanitarian crises in the region? Has technology created greater access to accurate and unbiased media?

Panel #2: 
Women Who Lead– 
How are women leaders using the Internet and technology to advocate for more just laws and raise awareness about social and policy issues related to gender equity?

Panel #3: Entrepreneurship How are women using the Internet and technology to power innovation, lead in business and become social entrepreneurs?  What kinds of causes are women connecting to business, and how is technology making these connections possible?

Panel #3: Advocates for Peace During Times of Conflict & The Power Of Technology The Internet and social and digital media platforms amplify voices that do not have access to traditional forms of media, and allow marginalized groups to tell their stories. What has been the impact of regional conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon, and how are women using technology to raise awareness? How have women used the Internet and other platforms to be advocates for peace and create solutions to humanitarian crises?

Panel #4:  Women In The Arts How are women using art to inspire, inform and advocate?

Stay tuned for more updates!

Looking for someone brilliant, creative and passionate about the intersection of ICT and Human Rights!

Michael Samway, the founder and godfather of the BHRP and now head of the Business & Human Rights Initiative at Georgetown, is looking for a unicorn! Please see below for a call to apply to be the 2014-2015 Yahoo Fellow at Georgetown University. See below and at the link for description of an incredible opportunity to learn and innovate at the intersection of human rights and ICT. They are looking for someone who can make a tangible and long-lasting contribution to the field, so if you want to make a difference, and want to work with one of the most inspirational leaders ever, apply you will.

Please see this announcement for application details on the 2014-15 Yahoo Fellowship at Georgetown University.  This unique fellowship opportunity is open to business executives, academics, technologists, civil society leaders, and government officials.  The Yahoo! Fellow will be supported by two Georgetown Master of Science in Foreign Service Program graduate students who will be selected as Yahoo! Junior Fellows.  We expect the Yahoo! Fellow will work closely with the Business & Human Rights Initiative in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.  The deadline for applications for the Yahoo! Fellowship is May 19, 2014.   

"The Yahoo! Fellow in Residence explores the relationship between new communications technologies and international values in varying national and international contexts. Projects should address the issue of applying international values and principles (e.g., free expression, regulation, citizenship and privacy) to new communications technologies and the diffusion of information in rapidly changing global environments. These might include large and evolving economies—including Brazil, Russia, India, and China—as well as interactions between the developing and developed worlds. Projects can draw on insights from many disciplines, including politics, economics, business, and socio-cultural research.

It is expected that the Yahoo! Fellow will undertake research and writing, some of which will be posted on the website of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, during his or her stay. In addition, the Fellow must organize at least one workshop or conference during each of the two semesters in residence, work with graduate fellows supported by the same Yahoo! grant, engage in co-curricular offerings and other interactions with the Georgetown student body, and participate in the professional life of Washington, D.C.

The Yahoo! Fellow in Residence will be a part of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy (ISD) at Georgetown University. The Institute will provide office space, supplies, and administrative support during the fellowship year. The Yahoo! Fellow will have the opportunity to be a member of a group of ISD associates and fellows drawn from the United States and foreign government agencies.

The fellowship provides a stipend of $60,000 to support housing and living expenses for the academic year and $5,000 to cover travel associated with the appointment. The appointment will cover the period of August 15, 2014 to May 15, 2015.

Within the School of Foreign Service, the Master of Science in Foreign Service Program (MSFS) will provide a locus for the applied curricular and research support activities associated with the Yahoo! Fellows. The Program’s multi-disciplinary faculty, including experienced public and private sector practitioners, comprises a broad resource base for research and collaboration on globalization forces and impacts across an array of diverse sectors and cross-national applications. Relevant results generated by the Yahoo! Fellows’ projects could be incorporated into the MSFS Program’s curriculum through guest lectures, special seminars, case studies and/or course modules. It is anticipated that research projects may thereby yield multiplier educational effects that extend beyond the tenure of a particular Yahoo! Fellow. MSFS graduate students will also be selected to receive partial-tuition fellowships as Junior Yahoo! Fellows. The selected students will engage in study and research associated with the Yahoo! Fellow in Residence and/or other faculty engaged in related project activities.”

Please forward to anyone you think may be interested in applying.  Thank you!  Application details here:  

Technology and the Court of Last Resort, by Ebele Okobi

On March 7, the International Criminal Court convicted Germain Katanga,  a Congolese warlord, of being an accessory to war crimes including murder. The murders are rooted in the bloody conflict that raged through the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mr. Katanga was convicted for leading an attack on the village of Bogoro that killed 200 people, primarily civilians, while they slept.  Mr. Katanga’s conviction is a victory for the ICC, and for justice. He now faces up to 30 years imprisonment, in the second conviction ever passed by the court.

The ICC is an incredibly ambitious project, conceived after the industrialized evil of the Holocaust, and birthed in the killing fields of Rwanda and Yugoslavia. Founded in 2002, it is meant to conquer tyranny with rule of law; to be the court of last resort for crimes, committed by state actors or under color of law, which shock the conscience.

 On Monday, March 3, Yahoo’s BHRP (joined by the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley  School of Law and Business for Social Responsibility) had the privilege of hosting the ICC at a private event entitled “War Crimes: Defending Human Rights Against Gross Abuses of State Power and Crimes Against Humanity”, a conversation about using technology to bring state sponsored human rights violators to justice. Participants included representatives from the ICC, Internet companies, academics and NGOs.

Why would a tech company host a conversation about prosecuting war criminals? The Yahoo BHRP is unique—we launched in 2008 as the first human rights program at an Internet company, with the recognition that our products and global footprint intersect with an array of human rights. While we primarily focus upon the rights of privacy and free expression, we also recognize that the human rights with which our products intersect evolve over time and according to circumstance. We also believe that part of our mission is to use our platform to call attention to difficult human rights problems, and to bring together multiple stakeholders to work together on solutions to complex issues.

 The conversation raised many questions, including:

·      What should Internet companies do when governments or state actors use commercial platforms to incite violence or genocide?

·      How should companies balance the rights to privacy and free expression with those protecting life, security, and against torture?

·      How should the ICC gather and authenticate evidence of crimes against humanity, when eyewitnesses are dead or terrified into silence?

With combatants uploading kill videos, and autocratic regimes using social media platforms to spread propaganda and crush legitimate speech online, the potential reach and human rights impact of bad actors is greatly magnified, and we are all made to be witnesses.

 We also discussed concrete, practical matters, including:

·      Company guidelines for responding to law enforcement requests, and how they are grounded in the human rights of privacy and free expression.

·      The potential to use publicly available images, video, search, mapping data, social media and big data to not only bring state actors to justice, but to prevent and limit human rights abuses.

 Participants left with a deeper understanding of the relevant issues, the beginning of a list of practical solutions, and the tiny, glimmering hope that one day, “never again” can truly become a reality.

Via Flickr:
Families queue up to receive food rations at Don Bosco Orphanage in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. Rebels claimed control of Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, causing thousands of people to flee, many of whom had already been displaced by years of fighting.

©Kate Holt/CARE

Enter the Leviathan, by Ebele Okobi

This week, I had the odd and slightly uncomfortable experience of being the voice of law and order. It felt a bit like how I imagine it would feel to be dressed like this.

I was a panelist, along with Yochai Benkler, Bruce Schneier, and Benjamin Wittes for a loftily titled conversation (“Defending an Unowned Internet”), moderated by Jonathan Zittrain and hosted by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. While the conversation was intended (I think…) to focus on the implications of corporate control of the Internet, the conversation immediately turned to the issue of state control of the Internet, a much more relevant angle, given all of the continuing revelations unleashed by Edward Snowden.

For extra nerd points, you can check out excellent recaps of the event here or here.

I made what I think (thought?) was a fairly anodyne reference to what I assumed was a shared understanding that we, as a society, do not want an Internet that is completely free of rules/order/protection, in the same way that we do not want, in real life, countries free of rules/protection, because the weight of human history shows that anarchy does not tend to end well.  The survival of the fittest necessarily disadvantages children, women, sexual minorities, ethnic minorities——essentially, it reifies the crudest forms of privilege.  From where I sit, that seems obvious, and I only said it to get it out of the way and get to my main point, about how, exactly, societies should balance the need for rules with the very real danger of overweening state power. And that’s when it got interesting. And by interesting, I mean weird. There were voices in the room that indicated that no, actually, they DID want an Internet free of rules, and that YES, there ARE SO places in the world where there are no rules, AND IT IS AWESOME (and this last, alas, is a direct quote) “like Burning Man!”

Just .  . .no.

Apart from the host of data and stories about the violence directed at women for daring to have voices online (see here, or here, or here, or here), apart from the way that the Internet has facilitated crimes against children with the proliferation of child pornography (see here), or the way that online bullying affects children, especially gay/transgender or questioning children (see here), and, and, and…Even if one isn’t interested in or moved by all of that, we use the Internet to make transactions worth hundreds of trillions of dollars, to bank, to send deeply personal and private information—without rules, none of this is possible. Not even [online tickets to] Burning Man.

What disappointed me most about that conversation is that we wasted time. We wasted time talking about a utopian ideal of the Internet and of humanity that does not exist,  that never existed, and will never exist. Maybe this doesn’t matter, if these kinds of conversations are only meant to be entertaining. But I think they DO matter. Companies like mine are working out, from day to day and decision by decision, what the appropriate balance of security and privacy/free expression should be online. Countries are enacting and enforcing laws that have and will have a tremendous impact on what citizens are allowed to share online, and on how safe they feel about their privacy, either as against individual, corporate or state actors. While there are some spaces where that conversation happens, in truly multi-stakeholder fashion, they aren’t frequent enough to miss an opportunity to engage in real, substantive dialogue.

While it was interesting (ish) to answer the question from a member of the audience, who asked “Well, so what if nothing online had any actual effect in real life, what if it was just speech, then would you still think there should be rules?”, I would rather have the much more difficult, and much more useful conversation about how life and the Interwebs actually work. Technology is AMAZING. There are so very many opportunities to make the world better by using its infinite forms as platforms and tools. But anything that powerful also has the potential to be used for harm. States have a duty to protect citizens against harm, and states have a desire to protect themselves against all manner of threats, many of which can be tracked or facilitated or caused by technology. Technology unmoored from rule of law is a direct threat to human rights. And yet. States also abuse their authority, in millions of creative and horrible ways, also newly facilitated by technology. All of those things are true, simultaneously, and balances must be struck. Wishing them away doesn’t actually work. And it means that those of us working at the intersection of these issues, and those of us (i.e., everyone) who are directly affected when the balances are off, do not benefit from the potential solutions that could come from conversations that address those messy realities squarely.

 And I end up being Lieutenant Dangle. So really, no one wins.

Global Network Initiative (GNI) Finds Yahoo Compliant with Free Expression and Privacy Principles


By Ebele Okobi, Global Head, Business & Human Rights

We’re proud to share the results of the Global Network Initiative’s (GNI) independent assessment, which underscores Yahoo’s commitment to respecting the freedom of expression and privacy of our users. Earlier today, the GNI released a public report that has determined that Yahoo (along with Google and Microsoft — all founding members of GNI) is making good faith efforts to implement GNI’s Principles on Freedom of Expression and Privacy. You can see the full report here.

The assessments present a major step forward on human rights accountability in the technology sector. They are the first of their kind and reveal the concrete steps that we and the other GNI founding companies are taking to respect our users’ human rights. We look forward to continuing to work with stakeholders in and outside of GNI to implement the GNI Principles, and to advocate globally for legal and policy reform that protects human rights and puts users first.

Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) Launches to Lower Internet Access Costs for Users


By Yahoo Global Public Policy Team

Two-thirds of the world’s population is not connected to the Internet. This staggering lack of access is due in large part to the artificially high prices that many people in developing countries simply cannot afford. The result: a widening digital divide that slows progress in critical areas such as health, education and science.

That’s why we are so pleased to support the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), an organization that aims to reduce high Internet prices in developing countries by leading policy and regulatory reform. We join a diverse group of 30+ private and public sponsors — including Google, Omidyar Network, UK Department for International Development (DFID), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) — that have come together to put our collective weight behind this important effort.

A4AI launched earlier today at the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation’s Annual Forum in Abuja, Nigeria. To learn more, join the conversation on Twitter and look for a Tumblr later this week by Yahoo’s Ebele Okobi, Global Head of our Business and Human Rights Program, reflecting on A4AI’s goal to drive down access prices to below 5% of monthly income worldwide.

Our Commitment to Your Security: Launching HTTPS As Standard for Yahoo Mail Users


by Jeffrey Bonforte, SVP of Communication Products

At Yahoo, we take the security of our users very seriously. In a constantly changing digital environment, we recognize the need to continuously evaluate how to best protect your information.

Yahoo Mail users can already enable https [or Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)], a communications protocol that securely encrypts your information and messages as they move between your browser and Yahoo’s servers. You’ll find this option in your Yahoo Mail settings menu under the security tab. Electing this option enhances your privacy and security.

Starting January 8, 2014, we will make encrypted https connections standard for all Yahoo Mail users. Our teams are working hard to make the necessary changes to default https connections on Yahoo Mail, and we look forward to providing this extra layer of security for all our users.

Yahoo will continue to enhance our security technology, policies and practices to provide the best possible protections for our users. We invite you to check out our Yahoo Security Center to learn about other steps you can take to help protect yourself online.


In addition to making https a default feature by January 2014 for all Yahoo Mail users, we plan to implement 2048-bit encryption keys, which will provide our users with a further layer of security.

Sharing Our First Transparency Report


By Ron Bell, General Counsel, Yahoo

At Yahoo, we take the privacy of our users seriously. We also recognize our role as a global company in promoting freedom of expression wherever we do business. That’s why we’re issuing our first global law enforcement transparency report, which details governments requests for user data from January 1, 2013, through June 30, 2013.

Each country report shows how we processed the government data requests we received during this period. We include national security requests within the scope of our aggregate statistics. You will also see the number of accounts specified in these government data requests, which comprised less than one one-hundredth of one percent (<.01%) of our worldwide user base.

I want to highlight our approach to government data requests. Our legal department demands that government data requests be made through lawful means and for lawful purposes. We regularly push back against improper requests for user data, including fighting requests that are unclear, improper, overbroad or unlawful. In addition, we mounted a two-year legal challenge to the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and recently won a motion requiring the U.S. Government to consider further declassifying court documents from that case.

We will update our transparency report every six months to provide users with further understanding of the government requests that we receive.

Democracy demands accountability, and accountability requires transparency. We hope our report encourages governments around the world to more openly share information about the requests they make for users’ information.

At Yahoo, we’re committed to leading in the efforts to protect and promote free expression and privacy on the Internet. In 2008, we launched the Yahoo Business & Human Rights Program. The BHRP integrates human rights issues into the way we make business decisions and promotes innovate solutions to human rights challenges. 

If you have a specific idea or question related to our Business & Human Rights Program, we would like to hear from you directly — just send us a note or a tweet.