Civicist

CIVIC TECH NEWS & ANALYSIS
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REACHING

REACHING

Sanders streaming into a house party near you; there were no privacy advocates in House subcommittee meeting on the Internet of Things; and more.

  • Cryptowars, continued: A coalition of privacy, civil liberties, and internet freedom groups have generated more than 6.1 million faxes to Members of Congress from internet users opposed to the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), Fight for the Future announced yesterday. (The faxes are being sent electronically, so no trees are being harmed in the process, FFTF says.)

  • On Medium, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) explains why CISA won’t protect anyone from hackers.

  • Kate Kaye of AdAge reports on a House subcommittee hearing earlier this week on the Internet of Things that “consisted entirely of representatives from industry groups,” without even one privacy advocate. “it comes as no surprise,” she writes, “that the general consensus among witnesses was that innovators should be free to innovate without the threat of overreaching privacy legislation getting in the way.”

  • Tech and the presidentials: Classified emails on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private server had information from five U.S. intelligence agencies, Marisa Taylor, Greg Gordon, and Anita Kumar report for McClatchy DC.

  • The Clinton campaign is pretty upset at the New York Times for how it bungled its coverage of the non-“criminal referral” story last week, as this letter from its communications director Jennifer Palmieri to Times executive editor Dean Baquet shows.

  • Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign says more than 100,000 supporters attended more than 3,500 house parties Wednesday night, all listening to the candidate via a video live-stream, Nick Corasaniti reports for the New York Times. “Attendees at the house parties were asked to text a number to opt in and show interest,” he notes.

  • Money talks: Former President Jimmy Carter tells talk radio host Thom Hartman that thanks to unlimited money in politics, America is “just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congressmembers.”

  • GenderAvengers: Ainsley O’Connell reports for Fast Company on Quibb founder Sandi MacPherson’s 50-50 pledge effort to get conference organizers to commit to equalize their numbers of male and female speakers.

  • Government opening: Boston Mayor Martin Walsh announced his city’s new “Open and Protected Data Policy,” opening more city data to the public including parking meter usage info, firearm recovery data, wifi usage data, recycling info and library user counts.

  • This is civic tech: Happy Birthday to Crisis Text Line, which turns two tomorrow. It now processes more than 20,000 messages per day.

  • The city of Palo Alto, California, is starting to use a new digital commenting tool built by Peak Democracy to further engage residents in helping update its comprehensive plan, Susan Schena reports for Patch.

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SOCIAL ORDERS

SOCIAL ORDERS

Uber’s promise to maintain social order; easier targeting of voters on Facebook; and more.

  • Cryptowars, continued: Implicitly rebuking their current colleagues, three former top American national security officials, Mike McConnell, Michael Chertoff and William Lynn, write in the Washington Post in support of “ubiquitous encryption at the device, server and enterprise level without building in means for government monitoring,” saying this most serves “the greater public good.”

  • Annals of disruptive tech: In the Washington Post, the Fletcher School’s Bhaskar Chakravorti explains how Uber is navigating the challenge of winning the Chinese market. This paragraph is key: “no prescription for success in the Chinese market can be complete without a plan for managing the true source of political power: the Chinese government. As protests by taxi drivers erupted in multiple cities across China, Uber recently acknowledged its commitment to ‘maintain social order’ by using its GPS data to track drivers and their locations near protests and canceling their Uber contracts if they were near such protests—a strong signal to the government that its cache of data could be used for the ‘social order maintaining’ objectives of the state.”

  • Alex Rosenblat of the Data & Society Institute has a fascinating piece up on Motherboard detailing some of oddities of Uber’s ecosystem, including phantom cars that a user often sees when they open the app (to entice them to think drivers are close by?), and the strategies drivers and passengers alike use to take advantage of (or avoid) surge pricing.

  • Baby you can drive my car: Andy Greenberg of Wired has another scoop on a security researcher who has figured out how to perform a “man in the middle” attack on GM’s OnStar RemoteLink system, enabling him to track a target car, unlock it, trigger the horn and alarm and even start its engine. GM confirmed to Greenberg that it is working on a fix.

  • Tech and the presidentials: Ashley Parker reports for the New York Times on how Facebook “has been working to expand its digital domination in the political realm.” One critical innovation sure to be useful in 2016 “allows a campaign to upload its voter file—a list of those they hope will turn out to vote or can be persuaded to do so—directly to Facebook, where it can target those users.”

  • Government opening: The Library of Congress has added several useful new features to Congress.gov, including a tool that reads a bill summary out loud to a user and the ability to search within member profile and committee pages, librarian Robert Brammer blogs.

  • Open government groups in South Africa are challenging their country’s role in the international Open Government Partnership. In October, South Africa will become chair of the OGP, but civil society groups are facing “increasing surveillance, intimidation and censorship of activists and the media,” several leading organizations argue in an open letter.

  • Activistas: GenderAvenger is out with a new video (and mobile app) aimed at combating the all too frequent excuses conference and panel organizers give for failing to include meaningful numbers of women in their events. Here’s a recent example of GenderAvenger engaging Launch Festival founder Jason Calacanis for only have 24 percent women at his March event. And here’s a more promising interchange with John Koetsier of MobileBeat, who tells GenderAvenger “Thanks for the eyes on it. We’re trying, and yes, we still suck.”

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BAKED IN

BAKED IN

“They don’t give a damn about governing”; civic tech applications of the blockchain; and more.

  • Petition 2.0: On first taking his job earlier this year, White House chief digital officer Jason Goldman said he would look into the backlog of unanswered WeThePeople e-petitions, and yesterday he produced results, Alex Howard reports for Huffington Post, announcing that from this point forward qualified petitions would get official answers within 60 days, and sharing responses for 20 long-unanswered petitions, including one from two years ago (!) calling for Edward Snowden’s pardon (which was unsurprisingly rejected).

  • Here’s Goldman’s post on Medium (his former employer), explaining the updates to WeThePeople.

  • Writing for Civicist, Dave Karpf argues that the most important news here isn’t the promise of a response within 60 days, it’s Change.org’s decision to partner with WeThePeople on petitions aimed at the administration. As he notes, “most people sign one WeThePeople petition and never come back. Only two or three petitions are started per day on WeThePeople. Change.org receives hundreds per day.” Not only does the partnership mean that Change and WeThePeople are no longer competing for users’ attention, Karpf adds, “The more that WeThePeople integration is baked into the functionality of other large petition sites, the harder it will be for the next President to shutter WeThePeople’s doors.”

  • Writing for Politico, Sarah Wheaton puts the WeThePeople news in context of the White House’s longer up-and-down history of experimenting with and using digital tools. And she quotes some guy named Sifry who suggests that if Goldman and team really want to score some digital engagement points, they should try some more free-wheeling ideas, “like a Wiki for suggestions about how Obama should spend his post-presidency, or a crowdsourcing site for pointing out government waste.”

  • Tech and the presidentials: Sen. Rand Paul’s campaign is struggling with “deep fundraising and organizational problems,” Alex Isenstadt reports for Politico. Among Paul’s problems: he hasn’t succeeded at cultivating a “sugar daddy.” Peter Thiel, the libertarian Silicon Valley VC, helped his father’s 2012 run, but Isenstadt says he is “now unlikely to be a major contributor” to the younger Paul. The senator also canceled a planned appearance at Auren Hoffman’s Dialog Retreat, another opportunity to tap tech libertarian types.

  • Paul’s digital director, Vincent Harris, went to Google’s VidCon conference last week and came back convinced that his party is doing online video “wrong.” He writes on Medium, “Republican campaigns, institutions, and advocacy groups are doing a great job of ‘tv-ing the internet’, while missing the key differences in the style, substance, and type of content that needs to be created for younger audiences.”

  • In a new paper, “They Don’t Give a Damn About Governing,” published by Harvard’s Shorenstein Center, journalist Jackie Calmes reports on how conservative media exerts enormous influence on the Republican party. For anyone wondering why Donald Trump is doing so well at the moment, Calmes’ paper is must-reading. Here’s a taste of what she found:

    “It’s not just talk radio, but the blogosphere, the internet—they’re all intertwined now. You’ve got this constant chorus of skepticism about anything the quote-unquote establishment does,” said a longtime former top aide to House Republican leaders, Dave Schnittger. And, he said, the chorus is loudest in opposition to those actions that are fundamental to governing: meeting basic fiscal deadlines for funding the government and allowing it to borrow. “Those are the things that leaders have to get done as part of governing,” the Republican said, “as much as conservative media may hate it.”

  • And this:

    Tom Latham, a longtime House Republican who retired in January, said, “All the social media, Facebook, all this stuff has had a huge impact, in that there’s a group of people out there for whom everything is immediate. It isn’t necessarily verified as being true; there’s a lot of opinion stated as fact. And they [conservative media] can arouse a lot of people just instantaneously.” When Latham came to Congress with the big Republican class elected in 1994, “We didn’t have internet, didn’t have that type of instantaneous communication,” he said. Twenty years later, constituent contacts to his office “went from maybe 7,000 a year up to, when I left, to 35,000 to 40,000 contacts a year, just because of the ease of communication and people popping off the emails every day. A lot of that is generated by the conservative talk show people and media people.”

  • Calmes also made smart use of Media Cloud’s news search tool, finding a dramatic difference between conservative and liberal media in coverage of the “Common Core” education curriculum.

  • Annals of open government: Waldo Jaquith of U.S. Open Data explains how they created a simple, free, open source software product that will help states publish verifiable legal data, and thus are heading off a rising tendency to lock it up in the hard-to-access .pdf format in order to comply with the Uniform Electronic Legal Materials Act.

  • Future present: Frank Pasquale and Siva Vaidhyanathan, two of academia’s sharpest tech critics, write for The Guardian that when “disruptive” companies like Airbnb and Uber posture as righteous champions of freedom while they flout standing employment and anti-discrimination laws, they are actually invoking a different history: the choice by reactionary Southerners to “nullify” federal laws they didn’t like. In doing so, they argue, these companies “undermine local needs and effective governance.”

  • Nick Grossman of Union Square Ventures, always a little ahead of the curve, says he sees the emergence of a whole swath of new networked services that “will fill the gaps left by the unbundling of the job” giving independent workers a variety of supports from help with job discovery and equipment to administrative help and insurance benefits.

  • Blockchain technology could be useful in protecting user-generated video of official misbehavior, distributing welfare payments, and providing people with official IDs, reports Emily Spaven of CoinDesk.

  • This is civic tech: Eilis O’Neil reports for us on Civicist about the efforts of Black Girls Code, where girls learn not only how to code, but how not to “feel like a weirdo” for wanting to.

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OFFENSIVES

OFFENSIVES

Clinton promises data-driven campaign going forward; Politwoops is back; and more.

  • Here are “five common-sense, bipartisan principles for building a smart, digital government,” offered by Republican Matt Lira and Democrat Nick Sinai writing for Politico. As they note, “The 2016 presidential candidates like to talk about innovation, and they’re currently debating the tech-fueled ‘gig economy.’ Those are important issues, but when it comes to how government meets the digital world, there’s a crucial component they’re not talking about.” More like this, please.

  • Margaret Sullivan, the New York Times’ ombudswoman, retraces how the paper got the Hillary Clinton email “criminal referral” story wrong, blaming the rush to get a scoop and unreliable, anonymous sources.

  • Commenting on Sullivan’s story, Josh Marshall of TalkingPointsMemo zeroes in on Times’ executive editor Dean Baquet’s mea culpa. Baquet told Sullivan: “You had the government confirming that it was a criminal referral. I’m not sure what [the Times reporters and editors] could have done differently on that.” Marshall responds, “This is a telling statement. The ‘government’ didn’t tell the Times anything. Anonymous people in the government told them something. Big, big difference.”

  • An unsigned “editors’ note” in today’s Times effectively apologizes for not correcting the original Clinton “criminal referral” email story sooner.

  • Bernie Sanders’ campaign is planning to live-stream into several thousand house parties nationwide Wednesday night, and as Aaron Davis observes for the Washington Post, “Whether Sanders can use the internet to build an effective campaign remains to be seen.” Sanders told him he believes the event “will be the largest digital organizing event in the history of this country,” which may be true for a presidential campaign this early in the cycle. This map produced by the Sanders campaign shows 3,146 organizing meetings with 82,465 RSVPs. Looks to me like a pretty effective internet-driven campaign so far.

  • Tech billionaire loudmouth Mark Cuban (owner of the Dallas Mavericks, star of Shark Tank) takes a stand for his class, according to Fox & Friends, saying “I have to honestly (say) he is probably the best thing to happen in a long long time. I don’t care what his actual positions are. I don’t care if he says the wrong thing. He says what’s on his mind. He gives honest answers rather than prepared answers. This is more important than anything any candidate has done in years.”

  • Here’s a corollary to the “Barbara Streisand Effect,” which is what happens when you try to suppress something online: If, in the course of trying to intimidate a reporter from writing a damaging story about a past, reported event, such as Donald Trump’s “violation” of his then-spouse Ivana Trump, your lawyer says, “I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting,” then your lawyer actually has invoked the Streisand Effect.

  • Dave Pell’s “Next Draft of the Future,” written for Vice’s Motherboard, is wickedly good on current events, despite being written from the future.

  • Elizabeth Gillis reports for the Berkman Center blog on its Internet Monitor project, which is developing a new dashboard for understanding how people all over the world access and use the net.

  • Related: Vindu Goel reports for the New York Times on Facebook’s efforts to sell its Internet.org project, describing it as “an ambitious effort to connect the world’s poorest people to the internet,” without mentioning that in fact it doesn’t connect them to anything like the actual internet.

  • Writing for The Verge, Ariha Setalvad also describes Internet.org’s expansion as “making it easier for any mobile operator to sign up to offer free internet access to basic online services,” again failing to note that Internet.org does not provide users a connection to the open internet.

  • Julie Scelfo reports for the New York Times on how recent college suicides, often happening in clusters, may be in part a response to accentuated social pressure fed by social media. Describing one student’s descent, Scelfo writes, “Friends’ lives, as told through selfies, showed them having more fun, making more friends and going to better parties. Even the meals they posted to Instagram looked more delicious.”

  • The NSA will destroy the phone metadata it has been collecting on Americans since 2001, the AP’s Ken Delanian reports.

  • A group of leading artificial intelligence and robotics researchers, plus non-experts like Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak and Noam Chomsky, have signed onto an open letter calling for a ban on offensive autonomous weapons.

  • Josh Tauberer of GovTrack has launched a Kickstarter to hire a full-time researcher to add more information about the daily activities of Congress.

  • GovDelivery announced this morning that it has acquired Textizen, a product of Code for America’s inaugural incubator program that enables government agencies to communicate via mobile messaging with the public.

  • A new ranking of start-up ecosystems looking at “the broad infrastructure of talent, knowledge, entrepreneurs, venture capital, and companies that make up a startup community” has San Francisco first, New York City second, Los Angeles third, Boston fourth and Tel Aviv fifth, Richard Florida reports for CityLab. The global study did not include cities in China, Taiwan, Japan or South Korea due to language barriers.

  • Don’t miss incoming Civic Hall Fellow Andrew Slack on “why we need a civic imagination” and what he’s going to be working on while at Civic Hall.

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AURAS

AURAS

Homeland Security surveilled the Washington, D.C. Funk Parade; Georgia sues an open government advocate; and more.

  • With Donald Trump leading in polls of registered Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire, GOP digital strategist Patrick Ruffini makes an important data point: the people surveyed by those polls bear little resemblance to the people most likely to show up to vote in those early states.

  • The New York Times has issued a correction for referring to a “criminal referral” regarding the use of Hillary Clinton’s personal email account while she was Secretary of State; now it says it was a “security referral” pertaining to the possible mishandling of classified information.

  • Former New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald takes to Newsweek to tear apart the Times’ first report on what he calls “email-bogus-gate.” He says the security issue isn’t with Clinton’s handling of her email account, but with what FOIA officials reviewing what to release from that account have been doing.

  • Asked about the issue while campaigning in Iowa, Clinton said, “I did not send nor receive anything that was classified at the time,” Alana Wise of Reuters reports.

  • In the wake of Netroots Nation, Democracy for Action—the million-member online organization founded by Howard Dean and run by his brother Jim—has decided to start asking all the candidates who want their support “how they will stand with the Movement for Black Lives and what they will do to confront structural racism and our culture of white supremacy,” their executive director Charles Chamberlain announced Friday.

  • Newly obtained documents show that the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Operations Coordination “frequently collects information, including location data, on Black Lives Matter activities from public social media accounts, including on Facebook, Twitter, and Vine, even for events expected to be peaceful,” reports George Joseph for The Intercept. One email shows planned surveillance of innocuous events, including Washington DC’s annual Funk Parade.

  • Chris Smith of New York magazine sums up the Uber-NYC brouhaha of the last few weeks with some very smart observations of how the conflict allowed the company to “dispel its aura of Bloomberg-era elitism” and gave it the opportunity to exploit “its appeal to a youthful, techie, multiracial liberalism.” Don’t miss the smart quote from Civic Hall co-founder Andrew Rasiej.

  • The state of Georgia is actually suing open government advocate Carl Malamud for “unauthorized copying and distribution” of the Georgia legal code (copies of which the state charges the public an arm and a leg), Mike Masnick reports for TechDirt.

  • With President Obama visiting Nairobi, Kenyans have been tweeting up a storm about it, with many using the hashtag #KenyansMessageToObama, reports Aggi Ashagre for NPR.

  • Writing for NextCity, Nancy Scola reports on Airbnb’s “Cuban Invasion.” Bookmark this one for your own trip.

  • The city of Seattle has released an interactive map of all of the booming city’s construction projects, Vicky Gan reports for CityLab.

  • If you’re in London, check out CitizenBeta’s monthly meetup: the next one is this Wednesday.

  • Pressed by its co-founder and CEO Marc Benioff, Salesforce is taking some substantial steps to address gender inequality in its workforce, David Gelles reports for the New York Times, including pay equity.

  • Now airing: Public Radio International’s Innovation Hub show did an interview with me based on my book “The Big Disconnect: Why the Internet Hasn’t Transformed Politics (Yet).” You can listen here or read Marc Solinger’s post about it.

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CORRECTIVES

CORRECTIVES

Why the Secret Service is on Twitter; Jeb Bush on #BlackLivesMatter; and more.

  • Yesterday at a campaign event in New Hampshire, Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush “rolled his eyes” at the mention of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and Democratic candidate Martin O’Malley’s having apologized for saying “white lives matter.” Bush then commented, according to David Weigel reporting for the Washington Post, “We’re so uptight and so politically correct now that we apologize for saying ‘lives matter’?” The video of Bush’s comments was captured by trackers from American Bridge and quickly posted online. If you listen closely, Bush appears to accuse the #BlackLivesMatter movement of not believing that white lives matter.

  • Two inspectors general have recommended that the Justice Department open a criminal investigation into whether sensitive government information was mishandled by Hillary Clinton’s private email account while she was secretary of state, Michael Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo report for the New York Times.

  • In case you think this is a meaningful metric, A.J. Feather reports for Bloomberg News that Hillary Clinton is winning the “Facebook primary” in terms of how many “unique people” are talking about her compared to the other presidential candidates.

  • Josephine Wolff reports for The Atlantic on how the Secret Service monitors online threats to President Obama. She notes, “Pulling up every tweet which uses the words ‘Obama’ and ‘assassinate’ takes mere seconds, and the Secret Service has tried to make it easier for people to draw threats to its attention by setting up its own Twitter handle, @secretservice, for users to report threatening messages to.”

  • Here’s a chapter and verse breakdown of how Uber steamrolled New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, from Dana Rubinstein and Laura Nahmias in Capital New York. Uber’s use of its app platform may have gotten the most media attention, but clearly its lobbying army and full-court press on the city council did the trick.

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has taken over a private website, FAFSA.com, which had been operated by a private company charging prospective students for help filling out their financial aid applications, something that directly contradicted the intent of FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid), reports Alex Howard for Huffington Post. The site is being transferred to the Department of Education, he reports, as part of legal action against the private company, Student Financial Aid Services. This act of what Howard calls “digital eminent domain” may indeed be a first (pun intended, Alex?). Now, if only the Department of Education cared as much about helping indebted students with useful tech as it does about helping them get indebted, and didn’t leave that job to volunteers. [CORRECTION: Howard has posted an update to his story: while Student Financial Aid Services does face legal action regarding overcharging and other issues, it voluntarily transferred the FAFSA.com domain. So, in essence, this wasn’t an act of “digital eminent domain,” as intriguing a prospect as that may be.]

  • An app developer figured out how to use genome-mapping company 23andMe’s DNA database and API to create a screening mechanism that could be used by websites to block a potential visitor by their race, sex or ancestry, Stephanie Lee reports for BuzzFeed. The developer’s access to 23andMe’s API was swiftly blocked.

  • Craig Newmark’s craigconnects.org has relaunched, and in the words of its progenitor, it’s “better, nerdier.” Also, birdier. (Full disclosure: craigconnects is a supporter of Civic Hall’s veterans’ scholarship program.)

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MOVEMENTS

MOVEMENTS

Turning predictive analytics on police officers; an Uber détente; and more.

  • White House Presidential Innovation Fellow Denice Ross blogs on Medium about an amazing moment she witnessed during a three-day coding event where the New Orleans Police Department and the city’s office of information technology and innovation released a preview of four city databases for a group of teenage coders and their mentors to build apps with. The event was part of the administration’s Police Data Initiative which is working with 24 jurisdictions around the country to encourage better use of data to build community trust and reduce police violence.

  • As part of that initiative, data scientists are looking at how police departments can better use predictive analytics to figure out which of their officers may be more likely to overreact violently during stressful situations, Larry Greenemeier reports for Scientific American.

  • Reviewing data scientist Cathy O’Neil’s provocative talk at Personal Democracy Forum this past June on “Weapons of Math Destruction,” political scientist and Civicist contributing editor Dave Karpf gently pushes back against her fear that political micro-targeting is bad for democracy. The tl/dr version: he’s not very worried about it because campaigns have always targeted voters, now they’re getting a bit more efficient at it, and most potential abuses are likely to be caught before they do serious harm.

  • Wesley Lowery and David Weigel of the Washington Post report on “Why Hillary Clinton and her rivals are struggling to grasp Black Lives Matter.” They write: “The strained interactions demonstrate the extent to which a vibrant new force on the left has disrupted traditional presidential politics, creating challenges for Democratic candidates who are facing intense pressure to put police brutality and other race-related issues on the front burner ahead of the 2016 election.”

  • Today’s must-read: David Callahan of InsidePhilanthropy.com, who asks: “Is too much funding going to social entrepreneurs–and too little to social movements?”

  • Yesterday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo added his voice to the Uber-NYC debate, calling for a delay in the city council vote on capping the growth of car-for-hire services. “Uber is one of these great inventions, startups, of this new economy and it’s taking off like fire to dry grass and it’s giving people jobs,” Cuomo said in a radio interview. “I don’t think the government should be in the business of restricting job growth.”

  • Later in the day, the two sides came to an agreement: the de Blasio administration is abandoning its push for the Uber cap, and in exchange the company is giving the city a “trove” of internal data that it had been seeking for its congestion study, Matt Flegenheimer reports for the New York Times. Both sides are also stopping their war of words.

  • Related: Matt Stempeck has been tracking how corporations and tech companies in particular with big online platforms have used that leverage in political fights, and in this new piece for Civicist he reports on how “Uber Pushes Corporative Activism in the Digital Age to the Next Level,” raising important questions like “In which instances do we applaud corporate intervention by user interface, and in which do we decry it? How aggressive a campaign should a publicly traded company present to its users? Are there legal limits to corporate-driven free speech?”

  • Now this would be a Smart City: As hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers struggle to obtain or keep food stamp benefits, baffled by complex filing requirements, City Councilman Ben Kallos (and PDM friend) has introduced legislation that would require city agencies to send people pre-filled applications for the benefits that they are entitled to, Winnie Hu reports for the New York Times. He is also pressing for changes that would “eventually allow city residents to receive food stamps automatically based on tax filings.”

  • Avaaz, the international e-organizing behemoth, is facing a technology crisis. According to an email sent by its director, Ricken Patel, its tech backbone “is buckling” under the strain of communicating with 42 million members, leading to “5 site-wide outages in 4 months.” And so they are raising money to hire a new tech team to rebuild its systems from scratch.

  • MySociety shares a map of all the countries around the world where their open-source code is being used.

  • The AFL-CIO is looking to hire a digital campaigns and strategy manager.

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CHALLENGES

CHALLENGES

Color of Change is raising money for a PI to look into #SandraBland; the White House creates Twitter handle @TheIranDeal; and more.

  • This may be a first in online fundraising: Color of Change is trying to raise money to hire a private investigator to investigate the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Walter County prosecutor and sheriff responsible for handling Sandra Bland, who died nine days ago in police custody after being arrested for a minor traffic violation.

  • Very related: Freelance journalist Ben Norton notices that the official dash-cam video released by the Texas Department of Public Safety includes several bizarre edits, leading filmmaker Ava DuVernay to tweet: “I edit footage for a living. But anyone can see that this official video has been cut. Read/watch. Why?”

  • The Knight Foundation is announcing the winners of its latest News Challenge, focused on elections, this morning at the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life in Austin, starting at 10:30am ET. You can watch live here.

  • Our Jessica McKenzie has a report on one of the most interesting winning projects: “Informed Voting from Start to Finish,” a collaboration between Turbovote, e.thePeople, and the Center for Civic Design.

  • Congrats as well to the Internet Archive, which also won a News Challenge prize for its 2016 political ad tracker. Today the Archive and the GDELT Project are launching two amazing visualizations of TV news coverage, one focusing on how money flowed through campaign advertising in Philadelphia during the 2014 election cycle, and the other showcasing an innovative way of seeing what got picked up and rebroadcast from President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address. One fun finding: the most popular video clip from Obama’s speech was when he ad-libbed his response to Republicans cheering his declaration that he had “no more campaigns to run.” As Kalev Lateru of George Washington University and GDELT (Global Database of Events, Language and Tone) says, “What you are seeing here is a first glimpse of a whole new way of exploring television, using enormously powerful computer algorithms as a new lens through which to explore the Internet Archive’s massive archive of television news.”

  • Brave New Internet of Things: With the help of two hardworking car security researchers, Wired’s Andy Greenberg completely owns the story of how today’s connected cars can being remotely taken over by hackers accessing their controls through a vulnerability in their Uconnect system.

  • Chrysler is already taking steps to patch the security hole exposed by Greenberg’s hacker friends, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, but many drivers probably won’t take their cars in for a repair, leaving them vulnerable. Miller estimates that as many as 471,000 vehicles on the road may be at risk.

  • Coincidentally, Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) yesterday introduced the Spy Car Act, calling on the FTC and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to take steps to protect driver privacy and security against outside hacks.

  • The war of words between Uber and New York Mayor Bill De Blasio continued to escalate, Matt Flegenheimer of the New York Times reports, with the mayor and his political allies now comparing Uber to corporate behemoths like Wal-Mart.

  • Interviewed in Rome where he is attending a Vatican conference on climate change, De Blasio told The Guardian, ““I think it’s clear that as a corporation, as a multibillion dollar corporation, Uber thinks it can dictate to government. I remind them that the government represents the people and the people’s larger interest, and that is more important than any one company’s needs.” He also mentioned that he had commiserated with the mayor of Paris, whose own taxi drivers are also at war over the Uber issue.

  • Ben Popper of The Verge takes a close look at Uber’s claim that the city’s proposed one-year slowdown on the growth of ride-hailing services would kill its business and concludes, “The claim that 10,000 new jobs would disappear if Uber can’t license an unlimited supply of new cars is pretty hard to swallow.”

  • In case you think Uber is just like any other tech company trying to get local governments to welcome its business, it’s worth reading Bloomberg News’ Karen Weise’s story from a month ago on how Uber conquered its critics in Portland, Oregon.

  • The White House has created a Twitter account for @TheIranDeal. The account mainly follows media figures, which makes sense because it’s part of the Obama administration’s sales push for the agreement. But I was kind of hoping @TheIranDeal would also follow something like @NAFTA, or at least @TheNewDeal.

  • Nicko Margolies, the manager of the Sunlight Foundation’s now defunct Politwoops projects, points out to The Hill’s Mario Trujillo that there’s nothing stopping private individuals from keeping track of deleted tweets from politicians. “If we weren’t sort of a work-in-the-open organization, you could run Politwoops and just not tell anyone,” he tells her. “And I think Twitter probably wouldn’t find out,” he says at another point, before quickly adding, “That’s not an endorsement.”

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture is putting up $75 million in loans and $11 million in grants to increase broadband access in rural areas in seven states.

  • Facebook doesn’t have standing to challenge search warrants on behalf of its customers, a NY state appeals court ruled yesterday, James McKinley Jr. reports for the New York Times.

  • Here’s an important data point from Josh Israel’s excellent report on the state of the progressive netroots for Think Progress: “In 2006, the prominent progressive blog MyDD listed a progressive blogroll of the top websites in each of 43 states. Today, just 18 of those remain active.”

  • RIP E.L. Doctorow, one of America’s great writers. Take a moment and ponder, or savor, what he had to say a year-and-a-half ago about the internet and culture when he received the National Book Award medal for his distinguished contribution to American letters.

  • I wonder if politicians will find this useful: The team behind Delicious has just released Dmail, a Chrome extension that lets you send email that self-destructs.

Categories
First Post

RECAPS

RECAPS

Hillary Clinton gives noncommittal answers during Facebook Q&A; what $1.4 billion will get you in Chicago; and more.

  • During a Facebook Q&A yesterday, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took a question from the Huffington Post’s Alex Howard about what policies she might support to help workers displaced by automation or fending with the uncertainties of the “gig economy.” Her answer, he notes, was pretty noncommittal, beyond saying that “we have to resolve these questions while embracing the promise and potential of these new technologies and without stifling innovation or limiting the ability of working moms and veterans and young people to get ahead.”

  • Uber’s NYC general counsel Josh Mohrer wants a face-to-face live-streamed conversation with Mayor Bill de Blasio (“so all New Yorkers can watch”), but the mayor says “I don’t debate with private corporations,” Gloria Pazmino reports for Capital NY.

  • Capital NY’s Dana Rubinstein recaps the last few weeks of back-and-forth between Uber representatives and City Hall, uncovering enough miscommunication, fits of pique and contradictions to make clear that the current confrontation probably isn’t what anyone actually wants, but laying a lot of blame at the Mayor’s feet. Two paradoxes that jump out of her story: Taxi Workers Alliance founder Bhairavi Desai, who is often at war with the traditional taxi industry over its exploitation of workers, backs the proposed cap on Uber’s growth, but does so because what she fears most is how the job of taxi driver itself is becoming unsustainable. And, Rubinstein notes, while De Blasio is saying he wants to protect workers, one of his big tax donors, Evgeny Friedman, has been sued by the attorney general for mistreating his.

  • Nilay Patel of The Verge explains why we should rue the rush by Apple and Facebook to lure publishers into their mobile web: “The entire point of the web was to democratize and simplify publishing using standards that anyone could build on, and it has been a raging, massively disruptive success for decades now. But the iPhone’s depressing combination of dominant mobile web marketshare and shitbox performance means we’re all sort of ready to throw that progress away.” (h/t Andrew Golis)

  • Take data on who is being imprisoned in Illinois, and look back at their home addresses, estimate the cost per prisoner, add maps, and here’s what you find: Five poor neighborhoods in Chicago have had more than $1.4 billion spent on incarcerating many of their residents from 2005-2009, this new study on the city’s “Million Dollar Blocks” shows. 851 blocks have had more than $1 million spent on imprisoning residents, and 121 of those spent that much just to incarcerate people for non-violent drug offenses. The study builds on earlier work by Laura Kurgan of Columbia University that found a similar pattern in New York City.

  • Civic Eagle is an early stage mobile app that is hoping to engage ordinary Americans in the public conversation by using short video debates. Though the start-up is tiny, the Huffington Post’s Alex Howard writes that “The Civic Eagle team has built a more interesting civic app than many I’ve seen demonstrated in the past few years.”

  • Years ago, Al Gore suggested that we put a satellite in geosynchronous orbit above Earth to beam a continuous live view if the sunlit side of the planet back home. Now that vision has become a reality (well, without the live view), as this post by Robinson Meyer of The Atlantic explains.

Categories
First Post

GATE-CRASHING

GATE-CRASHING

Netroots Nation gets back to its unruly roots, shouting down O’Malley and Sanders; how NASA got good at social media; and more.

  • Over the weekend at Netroots Nation, activists with #BlackLivesMatter, the Dream Defenders, and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration interrupted the conference’s presidential town hall session with candidates Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders. As David Dayen reports for the New Republic, neither candidate rose to the occasion, presumably because they expected a traditional Democratic party event rather than a democratic power protest.

  • Netroots Nation, which was originally the Yearly Kos conference, has its roots in the unruly outsiders who “crashed the gates” of the Democratic establishment in the mid-2000s, but in recent years it has gotten much more professionalized, like a trade show for the liberal-left. This weekend’s events mark a shift back toward movement politics. And as Chris Savage of Michigan’s Electablog recounts, the confrontation during the town hall session was a “teachable moment” for white progressives.

  • BuzzFeed’s editor in chief Ben Smith looks under the hood of the escalating conflict between New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Uber and sees “a high-stakes confrontation that will absorb his mayoralty and define the politics of Uber and its lesser-known siblings in the flexible, insecure new economy.” He reports that City Hall thinks the cap on Uber’s expansion in NYC, likely to be voted into law tomorrow, is a “boutique side issue” that only a “small set of excited tech people who are reading Mashable” care about, but warns that Uber has unlimited cash and will spend it to chip away at his popularity.

  • Here’s De Blasio in Saturday’s Daily News explaining how he sees the stakes in the Uber fight. He writes: “When you consider what’s at stake—from ensuring workers can make a decent living, to managing the surge of more than 2,000 new cars on our streets every month, to protecting consumers from overcharges, to making sure we have more accessible vehicles for New Yorkers with disabilities—it’s our responsibility to act.”

  • One sign that the fight is escalating: Uber’s chief strategist David Plouffe tweets last night: “Things are not on the level at NYC’s City Hall. Wasn’t the City Council told this was all about “congestion”? Not anymore.”

  • In the wake of a recent California Labor Commission ruling deeming an Uber driver as a company employee, and facing several similar lawsuits about its own workers, cleaning services company Homejoy has announced it is shutting down, Carmel DeAmicis reports for Re/Code.

  • Of the 34,340 people who gave money to Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign and have also given in 2016, Senator Bernie Sanders has received donations from nearly 25,000 of them while Hillary Clinton has received support from just over 9,000 of them, data-mining firm Crowdpac has found, David Catanese reports for US News.

  • Senate candidates Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Kamala Harris of California are proving that the Senate doesn’t have to live in the digital dark ages: they are voluntarily filing their campaign finance reports electronically, reports Michael Beckel of the Center for Public Integrity. (h/t Adam Smith)

  • Quartz’s Adam Epstein reports on how NASA learned to get good at social media. It’s a lovely case study, but it reads as if NASA didn’t do anything social or participatory until Twitter came along and a communications staffer, Veronica McGregor, made the spur of the moment decision to start an account for the Mars lander. In fact, as Jeanne Holm, who was then the agency’s chief knowledge architect, once told me, it was the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster that showed NASA that it had a distributed network of volunteers (thousands helped collect and map the debris that landed across several states) and fans (the agency had just launched a new website and many people left heartfelt sympathy messages). Those realizations led to a wholesale shift in how NASA engages the public, the fruits of which we now see.

  • An ex-Google employee who now works for Slack, Erica Baker, says a crowdsourced salary spreadsheet that she and some coworkers started “got reshared all over the place” leading to discoveries about pay discrimination, some more equitable shifts in pay, as well as grumpiness from her managers, Kristen Brown reports for Fusion.

  • LinkedIn CEO Reid Hoffman says self-driving autonomous cars shouldn’t just be allowed, they should be “mandatory in the vast majority of spaces.”

  • WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange tells Der Spiegel that since the site’s launch of a “next generation submission system” the site is “drowning in material now.”

  • New York City’s Big Apps competition launched Thursday night at Civic Hall with a focus on affordable housing, zero waste, connected cities and civic engagement, reports Miranda Neubauer for Capital NY.

  • With Greece’s formal economy collapsing, an informal “solidarity economy” appears to be growing, experimenting with alternative currencies to manage bartering and time banks, reports Emma Graham-Harrison for The Guardian. She notes, “There are many projects whose obsolete websites stand as the only memorials to their founders’ dreams, ranging from a project for unemployed young people in Athens to the votsalo (pebble) currency,” whose failure she reports in detail.