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Civic tech for the children; are tech philanthropists discounting expertise of nonprofit leaders because their skills are feminized?; and more.

  • Today’s civic-tech must-read: Kristen Joiner, the co-founder of Scenarios USA, writes for Stanford Social Innovation Review about the uneasy relationship between tech philanthropists and social change leaders, asking “Is it possible that, in the marriage between the new tech philanthropists and social change leaders, our culture ignores and sweeps aside the expertise of nonprofit leaders simply because critical skills required for social change (like empathy) are feminized, along with the nonprofit sector itself?”

  • New Haven-based SeeClickFix is partnering with the Oakland-based Workers Lab to develop an app that will make it easier for workers to report occupational safety violations, Caroline O’Donovan reports for BuzzFeed.

  • UNICEF has announced a $9 million venture fund for civic tech that can benefit children, Ben Schiller reports for FastCoexist. The money comes from governments in Finland and Denmark, plus the Walt Disney Company Foundation and the Page Family Foundation.

  • Tech and politics: Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign is pushing the limits of political voter surveillance, the AP’s Michael Biesecker and Julie Bykowicz report. Not only does his Facebook app grab his supporters’ personal information—including their location data and lists of their friends and relatives—his campaign is combining that with a privately-built database that has “quantified the personalities of every adult American,” according to its builder Cambridge Analytica’s Alexander Nix. The data allows for precision-levels of pandering. For example, on gun rights, “For voters who care about traditions or family, a message may resonate about guaranteeing the ability of a grandfather teaching shooting lessons. For someone identified as introverted, a better pitch might describe keeping guns for protection against crime.”

  • Seamus Kraft of the OpenGov Foundation takes a close look at how Congressional staffers actually track and report office expenditures, and the results aren’t pretty.

  • Code written on GitHub by women is approved at a higher rate than code written by men, researchers have found. But as Julia Carrie Wong reports for The Guardian, this is only true of women coders whose gender was not identifiable on the site.

  • Life in Facebookistan: Writing for The Atlantic, Adrienne Lafrance explains exactly why Facebook’s “Free Basics” program in India is indeed, colonialism for the digital age.

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Bernie breaking online fundraising records; Obama calls for universal automatic voter registration; and more.

  • Small donors, big data: In 2004, Howard Dean’s presidential campaign built a grassroots base of 600,000 donors, largely by using the internet, and vaulted a formerly obscure small-state Governor to the top of the Democratic field, for a time. “We all felt the muscle flex of this new progressive movement and were stunned by it,” Nicco Mele, Dean’s webmaster, told me back then. Well, now a formerly obscure small-state U.S. Senator has been vaulted to the top of this year’s Democratic field, and overnight between Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary and yesterday afternoon, we saw that muscle, rebuilt, flex again. In the 18 hours after the polls closed, the Sanders campaign reported raising $5.2 million, at an average of $34 per donation. In 23 hours, it hit $6.3 million, according to this Kenneth Vogel story in Politico (which does a nice job of profiling Tim Tagaris, one of Sanders’ key online strategists). By the evening yesterday, according to an ActBlue thermometer included in a follow-up email from the campaign, the Sanders’ haul had reached $7 million, a new record for one day during a president primary.

  • The one-day record for a fundraising email by a presidential campaign during a primary was previously held by the 2008 Ron Paul campaign, which invented the “money bomb” and raised $6 million from 58,000 donors on December 18, 2007 (the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party). The 2012 Obama campaign raised $10 million overnight after Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, where she mocked him for being a “community organizer.”

  • New Hampshire has long been a great springboard for fundraising online; in 2000 John McCain’s upset victory over George W. Bush generated $1 million in such donations through his website, averaging $110 each. (Kids, candidates with websites and people making donations using credit cards was a novelty back then. It was a big deal in the fall of 1999 when Bill Bradley, the Sanders to Al Gore’s Clinton, announced he had raised $650,000 that way.)

  • Speaking of records, Kickstarter celebrated the 100,000th successful project on its crowdfunding platform a few days ago. Nearly 9.1 million people have pledged to those projects.

  • Speaking of large numbers, Marc Andreessen’s offhand tweet criticizing anti-colonialism in India had the effect of riling a county of one billion, prompted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to explicitly disassociate himself from Andreessen’s comments. Andreessen is a member of Facebook’s board.

  • Trump watch: Robert Paxton, a noted historian of fascism, explains to Isaac Chotiner of Slate how the short-fingered vulgarian compares to Hitler and Mussolini.

  • What sharing economy? Remember Airbnb’s “transparency” press event at Civic Hall in December, when it invited members of the press to come view a spreadsheet of its New York City user data? A new report by Murray Cox of and Tom Slee, author of “What’s Yours in Mine: Against the Sharing Economy,” shows “the data was photoshopped: Airbnb ensured it would paint a flattering picture by carrying out a one-time targeted purge of over 1,000 listings in the first three weeks of November.” Specifically, the company removed more than 1,000 “entire home” listings from its site, using the resulting data to argue that only 10% of those listings belonged to hosts with multiple listings. “The true number had been close to 19% for all of 2015,” Cox and Slee point out. The number of multiple listings is an indication of “sharelords,” people who aren’t just renting out a room or their own apartment on occasion, but using the platform to turn their properties into de-facto hotels and circumvent state laws.

  • Commenting on Cox and Slee’s report, New York state senator Liz Krueger, a longtime Airbnb critic, said, “Far from being open and transparent, this report shows that Airbnb intentionally misled the press and elected officials in New York. The data clearly disproves Airbnb’s perennial argument that they want to work with city officials to protect everyday New Yorkers, fight illegal hotel activity, and remove “bad actors” from their site. Instead, it appears the company took extraordinary one­time measures to manipulate data and make themselves look good on one day in one city.”

  • Cox and Slee’s report has generated critical coverage in The GuardianRe/CodeThe Awl, and Fusion. Christopher Nulty, Airbnb’s public affairs head for eastern North America, has responded to the report, arguing that most Airbnb users are single-listers, not sharelords. He says, “Our community in New York has evolved to a point where 94 percent of hosts have just one listing and where there is no material presence of illegal hotels, which is why accusations from the same elected officials who called for there to be no illegal hotels on the platform and now want to fine middle class families $50,000 is akin to asking someone to walk on water and then, when they do, fining them for not swimming.”

  • This is civic tech: Public Lab’s Jeff Warren announces the launch of Spectral Workbench 2, an updated version of the nonprofit’s kitchen table tool for analyzing chemical traces. Here’s a great profile of Public Lab’s work by Benjamin Preston for Make magazine.(Full disclosure: I serve on Public Lab’s board.)

  • President Obama went to Springfield, Illinois, on the 9th anniversary of his launching his first campaign for the presidency to talk about fixing the nation’s politics, and issued a call for universal automatic voter registration and an end to partisan gerrymandering of election districts.

  • Crypto-wars, continued: Rep. Ted Lieu (R-CA) has introduced the “Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,” or ENCRYPT. As Brian Barrett writes for Wired, it’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.

  • If the core conflict of the 21st century is between open and closed, as our friend Alec Ross likes to say, then Simon Oxenham’s story on the rise of, a sort of Pirate Bay for academic science papers, is proof that open is winning.

  • Your moment of zen: There’s a strange poetry to be found in the subject lines of campaign emails; to wit, the emails the Clintons have been sending of late.

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

  • Tech and the presidentials: After swiftly conceding to Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire last night, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook sent a memo to reporters promising “a data-driven approach to maximizing delegates” going forward and urging them not to make too much of the next two primaries compared to the delegate-rich votes in March. It reads, in part:

    The way to win the nomination is to maximize the number of delegates we secure from each primary and caucus. That means, in many cases, that the margin of victory (or defeat) within a given state is actually more important than whether the state is won or lost. Thus, the campaign is building the type of modern, data-driven operation that it will take to turn voters out and win the most possible delegates.

    The memo goes on to promise that each congressional district “will have its own data-driven plan.”The memo uses the word “data-driven” four times overall.

  • Upon winning the primary, Bernie Sanders made a live call for donations during his televised victory speech, which ActBlue’s Erin Hill tells First Post led to “incoming traffic at historic levels.” Some donors did experience a “still processing” message that appeared to hang, but Hill says, “In big moments, we prioritize incoming contributions first, sending receipts and updating metrics later. That’s by design and that worked by design last night. …Everything processed. There was a snafu with our thanks page UI, however, that caused donors to not get to the thanks page & leave some uncertainty about whether those contributions were completed. That was not by design and something we got fixed within an hour. But obviously not the experience we want donors to ever have, which is why we were also busy with concurrent real time customer service last night.” (She’s too modest to say that she was still up at 4 am doing some of that customer service.)

  • Hillary Clinton knows what selfies are, but according to this report from Amy Chozick of the New York Times, she’s not sure what it means for something to “go viral.”

  • As a fan of puns and culture hacks, here’s a robo-call out to Aaron Black of Americans United for Change, who jumped on Marco Rubio’s robotic performance during last week’s GOP debate and started following the candidate around dressed in a silver robot costume and holding a #RobotRubio sign. After some Rubio supporters roughed him up, an incident that was captured on video, Black spoke to Politico’s Nick Gass, saying, “You know, I don’t know what their major malfunction was, but I must have seriously pressed their buttons.”

  • Trump watch: Vox’s Ezra Klein has a must-read reminder on why Trump’s continuing rise is “terrifying.”

  • This is civic tech: West Carrolton, Ohio, is the first city to power its website with ProudCity’s beta product, reports Dustin Hailer for

  • The Sunlight Foundation’s Politwoops site is back online, after being shut down by Twitter. The revived tool will now include every deleted tweet made by elected officials and candidates for office, and there are plans to expand to executive branch officials and state legislators. Already it has caught deleted tweets from Donald Trump, John Kasich, and Chris Christie.

  • Congrats to Civic Hall member David Moore, who demoed NYC Councilmatic at the NY Tech Meetup last night, his first time on that stage.

  • Life in Facebookistan: Longtime tech industry observer Om Malik explains why he has always been critical of Facebook’s so-called “” or “Free Basics” project. “I am suspicious of any for-profit company arguing its good intentions and its free gifts.”

  • Outspoken VC Marc Andreessen takes the opposite and ahistorical view, tweeting, “Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?” As Kurt Wagner reports for Re/Code, the backlash was swift and fierce and ultimately the chastened Andreessen tweeted a full apology.

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The “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,” 20 years later; ad firm says DIYers like Trump; and more.

  • This is civic tech: The great John Perry Barlow looks back on the 20th anniversary of his “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” for the Freedom of the Press Foundation. And while he expresses a few regrets (was it the champagne, he asks?) about his somewhat naive belief that the net would govern itself “with consensus systems aimed at the commonweal,” he asserts, “I do not believe that the Nation State, for all its efforts to bring the Net to heel, has really succeeded. It is still the case that if one is reasonably savvy technically, he or she can express whatever they wish without fear of reprisal….The War between the Control Freaks and the Forces of Open-ness, whether of code, government, or expression, remains the same dead heat it’s been stuck on all these years.”

  • Speaking of the forces of openness: New York City Council member Ben Kallos is pushing two bills, the Free and Open Source Software Act, which would minimize city contracts using proprietary software, and the Civic Commons Act, which would encourage the collaborative use of free and open source software among agencies, cities and states. The council’s committee on contracting will hear testimony on both bills February 23.

  • Our Christine Cupaiuolo takes a close look at two technologies that British researchers have been using in conjunction with major political debates there. The first, Democratic Replay, is an open-source web platform that enables viewers “to re-watch a debate with a full array of interactive visuals and analytics on discourse, audience feedback, debate topics (such as healthcare or the economy), and, in the future, data-mining tools that could answer such questions as, “Did the candidate actually promise this last year?” The second, Democratic Reflection, is an audience-response web app that enables viewers to choose in real-time from a panoply of nuanced responses, that range from straightforward (“This is informative” / “I’m losing interest”) to more complex reflections (“If s/he understood my situation, s/he wouldn’t say this” / “S/he’s provided convincing evidence for this claim”). As she reports, the University of Leeds team that built the tool is “open to discussions with media partners in and outside Britain interested in using the Democratic Reflection app in future debates.”

  • Tech and the presidentials: It looks like some voters in New Hampshire have been receiving so-called “voter-shaming” mailers aimed at trying to push them to vote by supposedly comparing their voting history to their neighbors, but as Rachel Stockman reports for, it’s not clear what campaign is sending them out.

  • Has presidential long-shot John Kasich been reading Sherry Turkle on the dangers of the digital age? Here he is talking at campaign event yesterday in New Hampshire, as reported by Ross Choma and David Corn for Mother Jones:

    “Our lives are being lived so fast. We’re constantly on the device. The Apple TV…Have to get the new Apple phone.” He held up an iPhone, as he continued: “We have to slow our lives down and listen to people’s hurts and victories.” He repeated this call to de-accelerate: “When we do…it’s a more beautiful world.”


  • Video satirist Hugh Atkin catches Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio debating with himself on whether or not President Obama knows what he’s doing. The results aren’t pretty.

  • The almost-too-close-to-call Iowa Democratic caucus battle gets a detailed deconstruction from Darren Samuelsohn of Politico, who shows that party leaders in the state were not prepared for the way the Clinton-Sanders race tightened and precinct volunteers were often not interested in using Microsoft’s app for reporting caucus results.

  • Digital advertising firm Dstillery used location data to identify more than 16,000 mobile phones that appeared at caucus locations across Iowa, Donovan Slack reports for USA Today. The company found that sports fans and techies were more likely to show up at caucuses won by Marco Rubio or Bernie Sanders, where those who were into grilling, lawn and garden care, and other household DIYers were more likely at caucuses won decisively by Donald Trump.

  • International internet: Facebook’s Free Basics program had only reached one million of India’s 252 million internet users, Reuters’s Jeremy Wagstaff and Himank Sharma report. The decision by Indian regulators to effectively kill the program for violating net neutrality will likely embolden other regulators to demand equal access from ISPs elsewhere, they note.

  • Commenting on Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook page, Anil Dash tries to school the company CEO in the problematic history of Western colonialism in India, writing, “A colonialist “trust us, it’s for your own benefit” pitch is a hard sell with good reason….What about pausing the Internet Basics effort and spending some time on a real effort to listen to Indian voices about what would help them have connectivity on their own terms, in a way they find acceptable?” Zuckerberg kind of maybe gets it, replying “I think you’re right about focusing on following the local culture and empowering local entrepreneurs.” The giant social networking company is also facing a setback in France, where regulators are giving Facebook three months to stop tracking non-users activity and to also end the transfer of personal data to the United States, Reuters reports.

  •, a new online magazine about global development and culture, is looking for pitches from writers for articles about open data.

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In India, a win for net neutrality; presidential candidates, lost in translation; and more.

  • This is civic techWriting for TechCrunch, Stacy Donohue, investment partner at the Omidyar Network, offers three predictions about the rising fortunes of civic tech in 2016. First, a “new wave of citizen engagement tools and platforms aimed at education voters and boosting voter turnout,” like Change Politics. Second, “more funding opportunities than ever,” citing an internal study showing that 23 civic tech companies raised $285 million in 2015. And, third, more governments will embrace civic tech startups, citing the success of CityMart as one example.

  • Registration has opened for the School of Data, BetaNYC’s civic tech and open data conference on March 5 here at Civic Hall.

  • International internet: In a huge victory for net neutrality activists in India, the country’s top regulator, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, announced new rules today banning internet service providers from having differential policies for accessing different parts of the web, Reuters reports. The decision is a huge blow to Facebook’s “Free Basics” program there. Here’s the authority’s full statement.

  • On Friday, Twitter announced that it had suspended more than 125,000 accounts “for threatening or promoting terrorists acts, primarily related to ISIS.”

  • That news was quickly overshadowed by Alex Kantrowitz’s story for BuzzFeed that Twitter was about to introduce an “algorithmic timeline” set off a firestorm of protest among loyal users of the app, leading Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to re-assure users that real-time feeds weren’t going away and that “we never planned to reorder timelines next week.”

  • Tech and the presidentials: According to former President Bill Clinton, after staffers from Bernie Sanders’ campaign took advantage of a database failure to access confidential Clinton campaign voter data last fall, “in private they sent an email out” saying that the Democratic party had left “the keys in the car, and all I did was drive off,” reports Jonathan Martin for the New York Times. Clinton’s harsh comments on Sanders, coming two days before the New Hampshire primary, mark a sharp shift in the ex-President’s public role in the presidential campaign.

  • Note to candidates: Google Translate doesn’t travel well. After observing how people are live-sharing presidential events in New Hampshire, An Xiao Mina of Meedan takes a close look at how social media works, or doesn’t work, in translation. Attacks on the “establecimiento” sound like you are attacking a physical building, rather than “el systema,” for example.

  • How well did Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton’s campaigns employ “voting science” in their get-out-the-vote efforts in Iowa? Harvard’s Todd Rogers and Adan Acevedo have the answer.

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Advice for civic technologists from people who know; campaigning on Tinder; and more.

  • This is civic tech: In Civicist, Kristen Rouse, the founder of the NYC Veterans Alliance, describes how relationships she built after joining Civic Hall helped her win a big legislative victory here this past year.

  • Also in Civicist, SeeClickFix co-founder Ben Berkowitz offers some hard-won advice for other civic tech entrepreneurs on how to build a successful platform for engaging residents and city officials.

  • Former Los Angeles chief data officer and Code for America OG Abhi Nemani offers a useful list of “7 tactics for fostering 21st century civic life” including creating collaborative hubs, pulling in civic-minded capital, opening up slots for civic innovators to work inside government, focusing attention through contests and dedicated media, educational programs, creating more civic apps, open data, and strengthening user engagement.

  • Making the rounds: the video presentation of “Equipay,” the Comedy Hack Day San Francisco 2016 Grand Prize winner. Don’t be fooled by its formal description: “Pulling data income data from U.S. Department of Labor, Equipay allows you and your friends to split the cost of a meal in accordance with gender and racial income inequalities.”

  • Tech and politics: Some young women are using Tinder to campaign for Bernie Sanders, Joseph Bernstein reports for BuzzFeed.

  • Molly Longman of Cosmopolitan magazine went on Tinder while attending a bunch of rallies for most of the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, to see what kind of guys were nearby on the app. The results are pretty hilarious.

  • Classified information was sent to the private email account of Secretary of State Colin Powell and top aides of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, NBC News Ken Dilanian reports, suggesting that Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while Secretary wasn’t unusual.

  • The FCC is close to finished updating rules for the Lifeline service to allow it to begin subsidizing Internet service to low-income Americans, Maria Trujillo reports for The Hill.

  • Crypto-wars, continued: Oscar-winning documentarian Laura Poitras is publishing a book February 23rd called Astro Noise: A Survival Guide for Living Under Total Surveillance, and as Andy Greenberg previews for Wired, it’s based on journals she kept detailing what it’s been like for her to be on the U.S. government’s watch list for years.

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Deray Mckesson to run for mayor of Baltimore; how cops use HunchLab; and more.

  • This is civic tech: Conteneo’s CEO Luke Hohmann previews this month’s participatory budgeting project for the city of San Jose, where the company has worked with local officials since 2013. “The target is 1,000 people in in-person sessions and 50,000 people participating online with our Decision Engine to prioritize how San Jose should invest the portion of its budget devoted to programs and services that affect San José’s neighborhoods,” he tells Kathleen Goolsby of “This is a ‘zero-based’ budgeting opportunity in which the budget allocation from the prior fiscal year will stay the same, but the set of programs and services will change based on resident feedback.”

  • As part of the Obama Administration’s Connect Home broadband initiative, which says that “every child” should have access to high-speed affordable Internet, Google Fiber has announced that it is giving a few hundred residents of public housing projects in Kansas City free gigabit internet service, promising to do so for residents “in all public housing properties that we connect to” in that city and boasting that it will eventually reach “more than 1,300 families” in nine properties. The company says it will bring similar free service “to select affordable housing” in other Fiber cities. Yahoo! At this rate, free gigabit service from Google will reach the 45 million Americans who can’t afford high-speed broadband sometime in 11016 A.D. (Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is one of the world’s top two most valuable companies at the moment, worth around $550 billion.)

  • The Marshall Project’s Maurice Chammah reports on how cops in East St. Louis are using HunchLab, a predictive policing tool made by Philadelphia’s Azavea (a B Corporation), to help them decide which so-called “hot-spots” in the city’s neighborhoods are in need of more attention. As Chammah notes, unlike other companies in the predictive policing marketplace, Azavea’s “rhetoric is civic-minded; the company’s other projects include tools to analyze legislative districts, as well as an app that helps city residents map the locations of trees in order to study their environmental impact.” Chammah’s article is worth a close read—unlike many pieces on predictive policing, it doesn’t overstate the value of the technology and it is careful to give voice to critics like the Massachusetts ACLU’s Kade Crawford, director of its Technology for Liberty program, who see the whole field as only “adding a veneer of technological authority” to practices that still disproportionately target young black men.

  • Tech and politics: DeRay Mckesson, a leading independent activist in the Movement for Black Lives who rose to prominence by his adroit use of Twitter, has announced that he is running for mayor of Baltimore, joining an already crowded field, as John Eligon reports for the New York Times. The Democratic primary there is April 26.

  • Google is starting a pilot program with NGOs using the company’s Adwords grant program to enable them to run ads “against terrorism-related search queries of their choosing,” in an attempt to boost “counter-radicalization” efforts by those groups, Ben Quinn reports for The Guardian. (Early reports on this project incorrectly stated that Google would be redirecting search results to anti-radicalization sites.)

  • Building on a network analysis of 120,000 individuals from the LittleSis database of politically connected Americans and the timing of their campaign contributions to Barack Obama or John McCain in the 2012 election, a Dutch political scientist named Vincent Traag has found that the likelihood of someone donating increases not only when someone in their personal network gives to a candidate (hello, bundlers!), but also when they see people from other networks that they are weakly linked also giving. “Our findings suggest that appealing to constituencies of diverse backgrounds may actually aid in diffusing support through networks,” Traag tells MIT’s Technology Review.

  • Crypto-wars, continued: A United Nations panel , the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, has ruled that Julian Assange’s confinement in the Ecuadorian embassy in London amounts to his being “arbitrarily confined,” the BBC’s Caroline Hawley reports. The WikiLeaks founder has said that if the panel’s ruling went the other way, he would leave the embassy and accept arrest. The panel’s ruling is not legally binding, but as Hawley notes, “Previous rulings by the panel have gone against countries with some of the world’s worst human rights records, such as Saudi Arabia, Myanmar and Egypt.”

  • A group of political activists and leaders of internet rights groups including La Quadrature du Net and Access Now are criticizing Twitter for alerting them when their accounts are attacked by “state-sponsored actors” but then releasing no information indicating which country is probing their personal information, Bethany Horne reports for The Guardian.

  • Your moment of zenGoodbye, Rand Paul, who has announced he is dropping out of the presidential sweepstakes. But was he really a Jedi?

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Uber drivers “log out” in protest; what it’s like to be monitored by Egypt’s secret police; and more.

  • The Uber Bowl: Thousands of Uber drivers are planning to assemble Sunday in San Francisco to disrupt traffic around the Super Bowl, Mike Dean reports for the Observer. 1,000 drove in protest through the city on Monday to protest the company’s fare cuts.

  • Related: Noam Scheiber reports for the New York Times on rising labor conflicts not just aimed at Uber, but also Lyft and Postmates, highlighting the “Good Work Code” being championed by the National Domestic Workers Alliance as a response. Uber drivers in Dallas and Seattle have succeeded in collectively pressing the company for some policy reversals, Scheiber reports. In Tampa several hundred protesting drivers have “started an weekly logout of an hour or two during peak periods for weekend revelers,” he reports, using Zello, an app-based walkie-talkie service, to communicate with each other.

  • Note to self: In the digital age, a walkout by on-demand workers is to be called a “logout.” (And I remember when we thought logging in was the radical move.)

  • Tech and the presidentials: Conversational trends on Twitter and search trends on Google both gave a clear inkling that Texas Senator Ted Cruz was going to finish strong in Iowa, Marcus Gilmer reports for Mashable.

  • Donald Trump’s failure to listen to advisors telling him to invest more in tech and data for voter targeting allowed him to get out-organized in Iowa, Kenneth Vogel and Darren Samuelsohn report for Politico.

  • Many of the presidential candidates are responding to questions about the internet and cybersecurity, but as Tim Karr of Free Press writes, the bad news is none of them seem to know what they’re talking about.

  • This is civic tech: The Sunlight Foundation has just launched “Hall of Justice,” a massive data inventory on criminal justice in America. It includes nearly 10,000 datasets and research documents from across the states and the federal government.

  • Spying times: The proposed “Snooper’s Charter” legislation in the UK—officially the Investigatory Powers Bill—”is so vague as to permit a vast range of surveillance actions, with profoundly insufficient oversight or insight into what Britain’s intelligence, military and police intend to do with their powers,” writes EFF’s Eva Halperin and Danny O’Brien. They add, “It is, in effect, a carefully-crafted loophole wide enough to drive all of existing mass surveillance practice through.”

  • European and American negotiators have reached a deal renewing “safe harbor” regulations allowing American tech companies to keep moving people’s digital data across the Atlantic, Mark Scott reports for the New York Times. The deal still has to be approved by the EU’s member states. And as Techdirt’s Mike Masnick cogently notes, the core issue that is still unresolved is whether the US government will stop indiscriminate mass surveillance of personal data of foreigners that moves through US-based servers.

  • A group of 11 U.C. Berkeley professors are objecting to a new internal web traffic monitoring program put in place at the behest of the University of California’s president, Janet Napolitano, the former national director of the Department of Homeland Security, Steve Lohr reports for the New York Times. “My primary concern is monitoring the private information of students and faculty in secret,” said Eric Brewer, a professor of computer science.

  • Don’t miss Mona Eltahawy’s chilling first-person essay in the New York Times on what it’s like to be constantly monitored by Egypt’s “National Security” secret police—and ask yourself why American cybersecurity firm Blue Coat is helping them trawl through Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

  • Your moment of zen: Bernie Sanders as a rabbi in the 1999 low-budget film, “My X-Girlfriend’s Wedding Reception.” Take that, Larry David.

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Inside the Cruz “Oorlog Project”; on Microsoft’s role in the Iowa caucus; and more.

  • Tech and the presidentials: Sasha Issenberg, pretty much owning the data-driven campaign beat again in 2016, reports for Bloomberg Politics on Ted Cruz’s voter targeting operation in Iowa, known inside the campaign as the Oorlog Project (taken from the Afrikaner word for “war”—and as far as we know not an endorsement of apartheid, just some staffer’s delight in the word’s sound). Some nuggets: Cruz came against Iowa’s fireworks law because his analysts had identified 60 votes who could potentially swayed by it, something they discovered by experimenting putting micro-message ads in the Facebook feeds of self-identified Iowa Republicans. Ah, democracy at work.

  • Perhaps a day late on its relevance, here’s Ben Smith, editor in chief of Buzzfeed, reporting on how dethroned GOP frontrunner Donald Trump dominates the media, new and old.

  • Here’s a fun story about edit wars on the Wikipedia pages of various presidential candidates, written by Jeremy Merrill for the New York Times.

  • This is civic tech: Re/Code’s Dawn Chmielewski reports on Microsoft’s behind-the-scenes role in the Iowa caucus vote-counting by both parties, a “showcase” for the company’s expanding efforts in the civic tech arena.

  • Our Jessica McKenzie interviews New America fellow Hollie Russon Gilman about her new book, “Democracy Reinvented: Participatory Budgeting and Civic Innovation in America.”

  • Crypto and privacy: A new study from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard argues that the fears of government agencies that strong encryption will let evildoers “go dark” are outdated by the emerging Internet of Things, where user privacy is essentially non-existent. As Xeni Jardin cogently points out on BoingBoing, “Basically, they’re saying the government won’t have any problem tracking us and surveilling our communications, because we’re freely sharing a lot of very revealing personal data and metadata to third parties, all day, every day, security be damned.”

  • Life in Facebookistan: Facebook has started sharing more “audience optimization” data and from that Dieter Bonn and Brian Abelson at The Verge have produced “the definitive list of what everyone likes on Facebook.” Bad news: Government ranks just below Gyms, but ahead of Animated films. Politics is way, way down: just below Justin Bieber but above France.

  • What sharing economy? Hundreds of Uber drivers in New York City went on strike yesterday to protest cuts in fares made by the company, the New York Times Marc Santora and John Surico report. One driver, Tsering Sherpa, said the lower rates would force him to work 10 to 14 hour days, declaring, “They call us partners. But they’re treating us like slaves.” Uber says it has lowered prices “to get more people using Uber, which is good for drivers because it means less time waiting around for trips.”

  • Don’t miss Steven Johnson’s eloquent rebuttal of Paul Graham’s defense of inequality as the engine of Silicon Valley’s tech innovation. Most intriguing is Johnson’s argument that the tech sector is actually more egalitarian than most American businesses for how well it rewards employees at all levels, and suggests that a maximum income ratio of 40-to-1 would fit quite easily within the parameters of what most Valley companies now provide their workforces. Johnson writes:

    Right now the tech market, even with its admirable pay ratios, is signaling to the world that inventing a new app for teenagers to flirt and banter can be thousands of times more valuable than becoming a high-school principal in a troubled district. That is a ratio with real costs to society. And I say that as a believer in these technologies!

  • Opportunity knocks: The OpenGov Foundation is looking to hire a senior web application developer.

First Post



Breaking down the Clinton-Sanders battle for the nomination; an oral history of Howard Dean’s YEAHHHHHHHH; and more.

  • Iowa watch: Joe Rospars, the founder and CEO of Blue State Digital, draws on his seminal experience in digital campaigning for Howard Dean and Barack Obama to produce a very smart analysis in the Washington Post of the dynamics of the Clinton-Sanders presidential battle. Rospars points out that both candidates’ teams “inherited an ingrained culture of constant testing and data-driven optimization that shapes every ad, every email, every call script for a volunteer and every list of voters they call. And both campaigns have built their organizing efforts on the foundation of tech and data infrastructure at the Democratic National Committee that first came together in the 2008 cycle.”

  • Rospars, who is neutral in the 2016 primary, also notes that “whether you support him or not, Sanders’s campaign is the home of the prevailing grass-roots energy in this race. The most recent financial reports, for the period that ended in October, showed that the amount Clinton raised from donors giving less than $200 decreased from $8 million to $5.2 million, while Sanders’s low-dollar take nearly doubled, from $10.4 million to $20.2 million. Clinton raised barely a quarter of the amount from grass-roots donors that Sanders did. Whatever the ultimate result, that shows the Sanders campaign has accomplished extraordinary things in volunteer mobilization and small-donor fundraising, period.” The Sanders campaign announced that it will bring in $20 million in January, Matea Gold reports for the Washington Post, calling it “an astonishing sum that underscores the power of its online fundraising operation.”

  • While you wait for the Iowa caucus results, you can take a trip down memory lane with Esquire’s Jack Holmes, who has gathered an oral history of “YEAHHHHHHH!” from a gaggle of former Howard Dean campaign staffers. Relive how internet-powered Howard melted down, with the infamous scream just the crowning blow.

  • Caucus math: Sasha Issenberg reports for Bloomberg Politics on how the Hillary Clinton campaign has worked hard to avoid the mistakes it made in the lead-up to Iowa in 2008, when Barack Obama’s superior field operation took her by surprise. From what Issenberg details, the Clinton team has a “customized campaign plan for each” of the state’s 1,681 precincts.

  • Republican Ted Cruz’s campaign is reportedly doing a lot of behavioral targeting, but a mailer sent to some Iowans warning them that they had a “failing” voting “score” was denounced by Iowa’s secretary of state, who says “There is no such thing as an election violation related to frequency of voting, reports Mother Jones’ Pema Levy. Hilariously, one of the people who received a Cruz mailer was Iowa State University professor David Peterson, who runs the journal Political Behavior, and who told Levy that his own alleged voting score was inaccurate. (Every one of his neighbors who received the same mailer got the same score.)

  • Echelon Insights Patrick Ruffini (longtime friend of Personal Democracy Media) has a great list of things to watch for those of you politics junkies who want to be the smartest people in the room as tonight’s Iowa results come in.

  • Thinking ahead: Some guy named Sifry explains for The National Memo why Mike Bloomberg is probably going to (again) not run for President as a third-party candidate.

  • Crypto-wars, continued: Privacy and technology expert Ashkan Soltani has left the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy because he was denied a security clearance, The Guardian’s Danny Yadron reports. Soltani had previously worked for the Federal Trade Commission, but he had also done work for the Washington Post, helping it analyze and protect its cache of NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

  • President Obama wants to dedicate $4 billion in new Department of Education funding over the next three years to reward states for increasing computer science education in schools, Davey Alba reports for Wired.

  • This is civic tech: Voqal has announced its 2016 fellows and they include several building tools that have civic tech written all over them: for example, Marquis Cabrera’s aims to help social workers improve the foster-care process; and Andrea Hart’s community data project creates a pipeline for south and west Chicago residents to create new data sets to help civic investigations.

  • On Friday, Facebook announced that it will ban the private sale of guns, Vindu Goel and Mike Isaac reported for the New York Times. Licensed dealers and clubs can still maintain Facebook pages. The company will be relying on user reports, and says it will remove any post that violates the new policy.

  • Cara Giamo reports for Atlas Obscura on a group of MIT-based activists who are working to address Wikipedia’s well-documents bias toward white male editors (and content).

  • If you are hoping to speak at the second annual TIC-TeC (The Impacts of Civic Technology Conference) in Barcelona this April, you’d best get your proposal in by this Friday. (We got ours in already—nyah, nyah!)

  • is looking to hire an executive director for its newly formed Charitable Foundation.