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FRINFORMSUM: 8/18/2011

August 18, 2011

British PM David Cameron makes a statement concerning the London riots last week. (The Guardian)

The civil unrest in London last week led British Prime Minister David Cameron to consider disrupting social media access. Cutting off internet and social media access was infamously implemented by the Mubarak regime in Egypt. The move was widely criticized by many western leaders, including PM David Cameron. Cameron now finds himself on the other side of the situation; furthermore, the Home Office contradicted Cameron saying that “closing down networks would be disproportionate and potentially ineffective – since it would penalize businesses and people NOT engaged in crime.”

This week, the Department of Veterans Affairs issued a new directive that promotes secure use of social media by VA employees and calls for “open and transparent” communication with veterans. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki stated: “Veterans should have consistent and convenient access to reliable VA information real time using social media — whether on a smartphone or a computer.” The VA has created over 100 Facebook pages, more than 50 Twitter feeds, two blogs, a Flickr page and a YouTube channel. Included in the directive are provisions for VA employees to properly represent the department position in communications, moderation of public comments, record keeping, and assessing privacy risks.

In China, a judge on the Supreme People’s Court, the highest court in the country, ruled that citizens can sue the government for release of information that the law makes publicly available. The Regulations on the Disclosure of Government Information were adopted by the State Council, China’s Cabinet, in 2007 and allow citizens to request the disclosure of non-classified information and correction of already published information. According to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 51 out of 59 government departments and 70 percent of 43 city governments failed to pass an administrative transparency evaluation in a 2010 survey.

On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that White House visitor records, maintained by the Secret Service, were subject to FOIA. The lawsuit was brought against the administration by Judicial Watch. The judge rejected the circular reasoning of the administration: “The claimed restrictions on disposal stem from the defendant’s assumption that the documents are under Presidential control — the exact point that the defendant seeks to prove to establish that the documents are not subject to FOIA.” Essentially, the judge saw the administration’s case as running on an assumption that their case needed to prove. The administration’s voluntary openness with visitor logs, could become a requirement of the administration if the ruling is upheld.

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