Tech companies’ non-response to the refugee crisis; Internet.org becomes Free Basics by Facebook; and more.
“…no private firms have partnered with ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] to develop tools or technologies to help European refugees, and no one seems interested in doing much more than flinging money at charity. Neither Facebook nor Google has launched their safety check-up features in Europe, for instance, though both did after Nepal’s earthquake earlier this year….Microsoft-owned Skype, which has periodically made calls free after major storms and other natural disasters, hasn’t extended the same courtesy to the hundreds of thousands of people now stranded in such places as Hungary and Croatia.”
The digital team’s secret weapon was a soft-spoken young tech expert named Ben Soffa. As the TSSA’s head of digital operations—who happens to be Cat Smith’s partner—Soffa was seconded to the Corbyn campaign by his union to try to give it an edge over the other campaigns, which were thought to have been vastly better prepared. Soffa created an app—using the American political organising software NationBuilder—that allowed volunteers to make calls to potential supporters from their own homes. The app provided information about an individual’s Labour membership, which constituency they lived in and its electoral history. Volunteers would follow a series of questions, with the answers fed back to Soffa’s team through the app. The data coming back to Soffa showed a clear pattern by the end of June: Corbyn was garnering surprising levels of support from across the party, especially from the so-called “three pounders”—people who had signed up to vote as “registered supporters”. The figures were so good that the Corbyn camp assumed they must be incorrect. “The numbers are amazing, but it must just be that we’re finding all of Jeremy’s core supporters,” Soffa told Smith towards the end of June. Another coup by the Corbyn camp was the prescient decision to embed the £3 registration process directly into the campaign’s website—ensuring that thousands of people who visited the website were easily able to sign up. “It was just an obvious, natural thing to do,” Soffa recalled—but the other campaigns did not think to do it, an oversight they all now regret.