Well, today was our last seminar. Its funny how time flew (it seemed like the beginning of the semester were only some weeks ago!). Before talking about today’s seminar, I would like to start by thanking my wonderful teachers and also my classmates. It is amazing how much I’ve learned with you guys, with such interesting discussions that broadened my perspectives on so many issues..

Today’s seminar was led by us (students)! We decided to focus on the Internet on the recent US election and also on the Internet in developing countries. For me, it was extremely interesting to read about the effect of the Internet on Donald Trump’s campaign. In Brazil, propaganda for elections are mostly made through television and radio stations, so I had never experienced any election in which the Internet was a huge factor. Donald Trump made great use of the Twitter social media. In simply 140 characters, he would make statements (without any further explanation), and post them on his account. This provoked many reactions from the public, as through his 140 character statements, Trump would not give any backup for what he was saying or explanation. A question that came up today was if Trump was really aware of how he was using Twitter in this “genius” manner. I personally believe that this was not intentional from the beginning, but as soon as he saw the repercussions his tweets had, he continued doing it and increased his tweets. I would also say this is also part of his “business” side, exploiting the Internet as a businessman.

We also talked about bots, which were extremely influential in these elections as well. These Twitter bots are (amazingly) able to become very popular, in such a way that the information they share (whether true or false) becomes very influential on election results. Although in these elections there were Pro-Trump and Anti-Hillary bots (among others), there are also “non-harmful” Twitter bots such as one that corrected people in the way they referred to Caitlyn Jenner. The problem with bots is: how to regulate them? Should we regulate them? How can we decide whether a bot is harmful or not? Should Twitter have to take any action to remove these bots? In my opinion, I believe the job of controlling and eliminating Twitter bots in a situation such as the elections should be under the responsibility of the FEC (Federal Elections Commission) rather than Twitter.

The last topic we discussed was Internet in developing countries – a topic I really relate to. The question I brought to the discussion was how can Internet and technology be increased in developing nations? The problem with developing nations is that most have unstable economies and governments, which cause foreign countries and possible investors to become skeptical about investing in a country with corruption scandals and monetary issues. Who, then, would invest to increase technology in these nations? The government in Brazil, for example, has a huge debt and cannot invest in technology. Could we count solely, therefore, with the effort of Non-Governmental Organisations? From personal experience, I believe that we cannot count only with NGO’s to solve these problems. Developing countries like Brazil are massive and relying on NGO’s to implement all of the technology necessary would be too much on these NGO’s.

One last remark I wanted to make is a comment regarding the future of elections. I was actually surprised by everything I learned about these US elections and the impact that the Internet and social media had on the results. This is a completely new reality for me, given that in Brazil the Internet is not very much used as a tool for election propaganda. But this got me thinking: what will our future elections be like? Will candidates take full advantage of the Internet (like Donald Trump with Twitter)? Will this end up bringing any huge consequences? Will this change the purpose of social media like Facebook and Twitter? I guess we’ll have to wait and see! ūüôā


Today’s seminar got me thinking about several topics.¬†We talked a lot about internet vs face-to-face communication. This made me think a lot about how people may seem one person on Facebook, but another completely different person personally. The things we say, the way we saw them, what we post and what we like on social media such as Facebook/Twitter, can cause many to “judge us” (even if unconsciously) and get completely different impressions of who we are. Think about it: what do you usually express on social media? Is it your like for a given subject such as math or physics, or is it photos, political views, videos you like?¬†When¬†I think about it, I would say many people share/add things to their Facebook accounts, that are maybe not the best reflection of who they are. In my opinion, getting to know someone personally is much more authentic. I believe that communicating through the Internet brings us a barrier in communication. Maybe the way a person writes a given sentence, or the punctuation she or he uses, may lead you to interpret what they said in one way, when they actually meant a completely different thing. When talking face-to-face, however, I believe these types of “misunderstandings” and therefore judgements are less likely.

We also discussed about how different social medias have their different expectations. It was funny to reflect about this in my daily life. I clearly notice that sometimes I am much more cautious with what I post on social media like Facebook or Instagram (in which likes are involved and I have many more friends), compared to what I post on Snapchat. We discussed in class the idea of how having “likes” (and nowadays, reaction buttons on Facebook), can change what one posts/shares on social media. I would argue this is completely true. Many people are worried about how many likes they will get in a picture, or if the picture will look “cool”, and this certainly influences what people post and what they choose not to post. In social media like Snapchat, however, in which no likes are involved, I feel people tend to not worry so much about what they post, as there is no “reaction from the audience”.

Another topic that interested me in the readings, was the conflict between France and Google. It’s amazing how many things I study at Harvard end up relating to each other: today for my French homework I had to make a video talking about the dangers of the Internet and its risks for young people. This is where today’s blog¬†title comes from. The word¬†inneffa√ßable in French is anything that cannot be erased or forgotten. France’s “right to be forgotten” allows a person to go to a service like Google and ask them to remove a piece of information about them which they believe is no longer valid/useful.¬†This brought about a huge conflict with Google. France also wanted this to be a¬†universal right: it wanted this to be applied all over the world. This would mean, then, that¬†the unwanted piece of information would also have to be removed from the Google search engines in other countries, like the US. This got me questioning whether this action is valid or not. Would it be right for the information to be erased in all countries, even if countries do not agree to this regulation? Or should the right to be forgotten only apply to France?


Hey guys, welcome back! This week’s topic was “CCC”: Cyber war, Cyber conflict and Cyber crime. But before I dive into today’s discussion, I wanted to relate some recent events to some things we studied previously. I want to talk, of course, about the American presidential elections, whose results were shocking to many. Believe me, even people back in Brazil were shocked. When I woke up the morning after the election results came out, my phone was bombarded with messages from Brazilian friends/family asking me if what happened was really true…

But, moving on, today’s seminar began with the following question: “could the election have been hacked?”. This question came up because the results in this election were different from the polls. I personally think that the election results were not hacked. Firstly, this is because most of the voting in the US is not done online, but also a possible explanation is that the polls were wrong. The polls might not have represented the population and they might have asked vague questions which then led to wrong results. It was also kind of shocking for me to find out that there was a machine (AI system) that had always predicted election results correctly, and that this machine had predicted Donald Trump’s win. Does this mean that in the future, we will be relying more on AI systems than polls/data from the population to predict certain outcomes?

Today’s guest speaker was Professor Jonathan Zittrain, founder of the Oxford Internet Institute, early founder of the Berkman Center and Professor at Harvard. The interesting part of today’s discussion, for me, was related to one of our past seminar discussions. As we discussed some weeks ago, there is no governance on the Internet. But, if there is no governance, as a lawyer, how can you deal with issues of crime on the Internet? What can you do? What is the legal framework to do that?

Professor Zittrain talked about preempting something as a possible framework – what can we do so that it doesn’t happen at all? Another way would be to let people do what they want to do, and sanction them after they do it. The problem with this is that people could be harmed/damaged. The third strategy would be “resilience” – are there ways of taking the bad thing and making it less harmful ahead of time?

A rather amusing event Professor Zittrain told us about was when a person from Qatar was vandalizing pages on Wikipedia and Wikipedia then blocked this person as a sanction. This led to a huge scandal and article saying that Wikipedia had blocked Qatar as Qatar used that same IP address for everyone!!

Apart from this, we also talked about “law and architecture”. Law is one way to influence people’s behavior, but architecture and code (using laws of physics) can also be used as¬†a way of keeping people out. I thought it was an extremely interesting parallel¬†to talk about code (in the cyber context) as architecture. The fourth force we also discussed were markets. The example he gave us involved tobacco usage: if you want to affect how much tobacco usage people engage in, you can tax cigarettes. Actually, this would be called¬†a¬†corrective tax –¬†¬†I studied this in Ec10 a few weeks ago! Its funny how everything, somehow, always seems to connect, even though you might take classes in diverse areas!!

“There Isn’t Any”

My blog’s title today was the first thing I heard in today’s seminar. This week, we had a guest speaker with us, Scott Bradner. He is a senior figure in the area of Internet governance, serving as the secretary to the Internet Society. Guess what we talked to him about?¬†Internet governance!¬†The first thing Bradner¬†said about Internet governance was: “there isn’t any”.

According to Bradner, there is no Internet governance and it is extremely unlikely that there ever will be any Internet governance. This is almost strange to think about, in a world where almost everything we do is controlled (in some way), but the government. The Internet is a form of information that bypasses government controls and it is almost impossible for the government to regulate everything we do on the web. I enjoyed the comparison of the Internet to a bumble bee. Scientists, according to our speaker, said bumble bees could not fly. People also said the Internet “couldn’t fly”. And guess what happened with bumble bees (and the Internet)? Both flew off, showing people they were wrong.


Bradner also talked about the Communications Decency Act, when the congress of the United States created this act to protect under 18’s on the Internet. He, and many others, fought against it, because this was merely impossible. The supreme court ended up hearing them – even though they agreed that under 18’s had to be protected, this was obviously not the most efficient way to do it. Many websites all over the world won’t be subject to the US.

We also went on to discuss some cases in which countries have (or have tried) to regulate the Internet. China, for example has a firewall between the Chinese internet and the rest of the world. But, according to Bradner, this did not stop communication between the Chinese population. My home country, Brazil, also tried to implement some type of governance on the Internet. The way I see this in my daily life in Brazil, is through Netflix, as Netflix in Brazil does not show us all the TV series and movies I can see here in the US, but Bradner also talked about the fact that data localization was proposed by the Brazilian government, but did not pass our parliament.

The most interesting, and rather new, part of today’s discussion, was the regulations in France. I learned that the European Union has very strict regulations, with strict regulations regarding privacy of individuals. One of these regulations is the right to be¬†forgotten.¬†This allows you to go to a service like Google and say that a piece of information about you (even though it is true), is no longer useful or valid. You can then request Google to remove and erase this piece of information. Google has a way of doing this (which is rather expensive), but it does not require the original source to take the piece of information down (something I personally found amusing!). The problem is, France says that if you request your right to be forgotten in France, this should be applied all over the world, they say it is a¬†universal right. This obviously brings about discussions as not every country agrees with such idea.

I’d like to finish off today’s post with a funny remark made today. In the last few minutes of the seminar, we talked about cases like Mark Zuckerberg’s in Harvard and Bill Gates’s in Harvard as well, and our conclusion was: these are¬†great examples of what you get when you break Harvard’s rules!!!

Digital Citizenship

Hey guys, welcome back! This week’s seminar was amazing: we had a guest speaker, David Eaves! For those who don’t know him, he is a public policy entrepreneur, open government activist and negotiation expert. He is retained by several governments to advise on open government and open data. Today, David shared with us his opinions on the government use of data and technology to be¬†more efficient. This idea of government using technology had never actually passed through my head, as in Brazil, the technological advances in the government are very little.

A first interesting question that one of my classmates asked David, was about his views on the digital government under the two American candidates: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. He said the digital government was not mentioned a lot by both candidates, as they focused more on other issues, but that he found it hard to find republicans in the technology space. He also remarked that he sees very little change on Hillary’s side, and that Obama did really like the USDS people and understood the impact of technology, but he thinks Hillary does not put a lot of importance on this technological side (at least at the moment)!

He also discussed his view of what is civic technology, a “narrower” view as he said: companies that are either trying to help the government deliver services more effectively, or companies that are trying to help governance. What I found really interested was the way he described and explained the technological path the government is heading into. Before, as he said, people thought of technology in the government as the “IT” group. Their job was to make sure the phone and computer were on your desk, that they wore working, that the server was working, etc. You had a director of IT, not a CTO. These directors, would then report to a CFO. The problem was, the CFO only cared about money and keeping costs low, he didn’t actually care about the technological side of things.

Nowadays, however, there is a change. Boston started doing interested things with data, for example. These same IT guys, were now asked to do data analytics – an explosion of expectations taking place in IT. The IT, however, lacked the skills to do this. The director of IT, for example, was not grown to be a CIO of IT, not grown to think about the “strategic things”, he was just trained to do his simple “IT guy job”. This is why, David explained, we see the explosion of chief data officers – people with right skill set and level of seniority to interact with the executive about the issues. This is the great change that is starting to happen.

We also asked him about which government agencies were actually “doing it right”. According to him, the Government Digital Service in the UK was an extremely good effort for a long time, but now they are getting dismantled ( ūüôĀ tears!). USDS is “unknown” at this point – has done some good work but they still haven’t solidified themselves, and New York on the data analytic space is doing well, but not so well in the technological space. What really effective governments are thinking about is how to store data to a server as an API, that anyone can plug into their applications. They are trying to standardize services across the many applications on their platform. The question in mind is: if there is some information that is so common, why should we rebuild it every time? Having everything in one database would be more efficient and save us time.

I would like to finish off by mentioning a rather, “exciting”, but also scary part of our discussion today. We discussed the power of the US government to intercept your information, what you say and what you do. According to David, the US government is able to intercept the Macbook you order in the US, add hardware to get all your information, and you wouldn’t even notice it. He also talked about how they would “overlook” people with 3 degrees of separation from “dangerous” people. It turns out, all of us are 3rd degrees of separation from Bruce¬†Schneier, as we have contact to David Eaves and Professor Waldo – some great news to end my¬†blog post with!