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Tim Wu and Zephyr Teachout at NYC Rally

After Election Loss, Teachout and Wu Keep Up Net Neutrality and Anti-Comcast Merger Campaign

Monday, September 15 2014

The Teachout/Wu campaign may have lost, but their pro net-neutrality campaign continued Monday as both former candidates participated in a rallly in New York City marking the final day to comment on the Federal Communications Commission's Internet proposals and kept up their pressure on Governor Andrew Cuomo.

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First POST: Splits

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, September 16 2014

USA Freedom Act divides Internet activists; Julian Assange's Reddit "Ask Me Anything"; New York's pro-net-neutrality protest; and much, much more Read More

Personal Democracy Forum Italia: September 29th in Rome

BY Antonella Napolitano | Tuesday, September 16 2014

PDF Italia will take place in Rome on September 29, 2014

In less than two weeks, on September 29th, Personal Democracy Forum will arrive in Italy for the first time, kicking off a series of conferences and events on innovation. More than 30 speakers will gather to explore the theme, “In a data society.” Read More

First POST: Lessig of Two Evils

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, September 15 2014

Updates on Lawrence Lessig's MayDay SuperPac; Glenn Greenwald goes after New Zealand; a virtual revolution in Saudi Arabia; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Positive Sums

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, September 11 2014

How Teachout won some wealthy districts while Cuomo won some poor ones; DailyKos's explosive traffic growth; using Facebook for voter targeting; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Emergence

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, September 10 2014

Evaluating the Teachout-Wu challenge; net neutrality defenders invoke an "internet slowdown"; NYC's first CTO; and much, much more. Read More

De Blasio Names Minerva Tantoco First New York City CTO

BY Miranda Neubauer | Tuesday, September 9 2014

Minerva Tantoco at New York Tech Meetup (NYTM)

Mayor Bill de Blasio named Minerva Tantoco as first New York City CTO Tuesday night in an announcement that was greeted with applause and cheers at the September meeting of the New York Tech Meet-Up. In his remarks, De Blasio said her task would be to develop a coordinated strategy for technology and innovation as it affects the city as a whole and the role of technology in all aspects of civic life from the economy and schools to civic participation, leading to a "redemocratization of society." He called Tantoco the perfect fit for the position as a somebody who is "great with technology, has a lot of experience, abiltiy and energy and ability to create from scratch and is a true New Yorker." Read More

First POST: Fusion Politics

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, September 9 2014

The Teachout-Wu Cuomo-Hochul race as it comes to a close; more criticism for Reddit as it prepares a major new round of funding; First Lady Michelle Obama as an Upworthy curator; and much, much more. Read More

As Primary Day Arrives, Teachout and Wu Unveil Tech Policy With Ohanian Endorsement

BY Miranda Neubauer | Monday, September 8 2014

Alexis Ohanian, Tim Wu and Zephyr Teachout at Meetup (via Wu campaign on Twitter)

New York gubernatorial candidates Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu officially unveiled their technology policy Monday afternon as they received an enthusiastic endorsement from Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian a day before New York's Democratic primary. Read More

First POST: Messiness

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, September 8 2014

The latest in NY Democratic gubernatorial primary politics; how the Internet Slowdown protest is gearing up; Reddit as a "new type of community"; and much much more. Read More

Vote For Teachout-Wu

BY Micah L. Sifry and Andrew Rasiej | Tuesday, September 2 2014

Tim Wu and Zephyr Teachout, selfie-style

Today we are throwing our wholehearted support behind Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu, who are challenging sitting governor Andrew Cuomo and his running mate Rep. Kathy Hochul in the Democratic primary next Tuesday September 9th. Here's why... Read More

First POST: Elevation

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, September 5 2014

The White House reshuffles its tech leadership team; why Twitter shouldn't adopt algorithmic curation; the tech industry money backing Tim Wu; and much, much more. Read More

A Competition to Make the City More Resilient

BY Susan Crawford | Tuesday, September 2 2014

New York City meets Hurricane Sandy (credit: John Chandler/flickr)

When Hurricane Sandy hit New York nearly two years ago, it left devastation in its wake. Homes and livelihoods were lost, and the storm caused $19 billion in estimated damage. Small businesses were particularly hard hit. ... Read More

First POST: Fireworks

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, September 4 2014

Why business should defend "net neutrality"; the civic tech scene in Chicago; the tech money behind a Washington state gun control initiative; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Government Clouds

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, September 3 2014

How almost no one wants the FCC to undo "net neutrality"; how Uber is losing its special status in Maryland; how one judge doesn't buy the government's arguments for the NSA's dragnet collection of phone records; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Endorsed

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, September 2 2014

Why we're backing Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu; Uber's controversial campaign against Lyft; White House CTO Todd Park's new role; and much, much more. Read More

WeGov

Ushahidi Provides Journalists With Instant Real-Time Crisis Data

BY Onnik James Krikorian | Wednesday, August 20 2014

Ushahidi's CrisisNET platform provides reporters with accurate and timely data culled from social media (credit: Ushahidi)

Times have changed since Ushahidi first launched its crisis mapping platform in the violent aftermath of the 2007 elections in Kenya. With the use of social media now widespread, so too has the way in which many media, international organizations, and local NGOs now work. Ushahidi has had to go social. Read More

WeGov

In Mexico, A Wiki Makes Corporate Secrets Public

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, August 20 2014

A scene from the mountain range in Mexico that foreign companies hope to mine for gold and silver.

Earlier this year the Latin American NGO Poder launched Quién Es Quién Wiki (Who's Who Wiki), a corporate transparency project more than two years in the making. The hope is that the platform will be the foundation for a citizen-led movement demanding transparency and accountability from businesses in Mexico. Data from Quién Es Quién Wiki is already helping community activists mobilize against foreign companies preparing to mine the mountains of the Sierra Norte de Puebla.

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Public Lab Builds Environmental Monitoring Community, Online and Off

BY Sam Roudman | Tuesday, August 19 2014

Balloon photo of Gowanus grossness by Eymund Diegel Public Lab

Environmental monitoring can be expensive and difficult but tech is changing how we relate to the environment. Until recently, the mechanics of political influence in America created a segment of environmental activism that isn’t always about connecting people to the environment. But as smart phones have gotten into more hands, and more people get connected online, environmental activism has started to shift, or grow, as well. Read More

Is the Sharing Economy Set Up to Help or Turn a Profit When Disaster Strikes?

BY Rebecca Chao | Friday, August 15 2014

Faces of Airbnb hosts who offered free housing during Hurricane Sandy (screenshot)

During Hurricane Sandy, many users of peer-to-peer platforms like Airbnb and TaskRabbit offered free housing or reduced prices to victims of the disaster. But others took advantage of those in need and raised prices. Can the sharing economy resolve its inherent contradictions? Read More

Responding to Ferguson, Activists Organize #NMOS14 Vigils Across America In Just 4 Days

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, August 14 2014

#NMOS14 infographic by @dakrolak

This evening peaceful crowds will gather at more than 90 locations around the country to honor the victims of police brutality, most recently the unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on Saturday. A moment of silence will begin at 20 minutes past 7 p.m. (EST). The vigils are being organized almost entirely online by the writer and activist Feminista Jones (@FeministaJones), with help from others from around the country who have volunteered to coordinate a vigil in their communities. Organizing such a large event in only a few days is a challenge, but in addition to ironing out basic logistics, the National Moment of Silence (#NMOS14) organizers have had to deal with co-optation, misrepresentation, and Google Docs and Facebook pages that are, apparently, buckling under traffic.

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The First Fruits of Significance Labs Show Civic Tech at its Best

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, August 14 2014

Signficance Labs co-founder Hannah Wright (photo by Micah L. Sifry)

A few months ago, Significance Labs was little more than an idea with a beautifully designed home page, a home at Blue Ridge Foundation's hub in Brooklyn, and the seed funding to back up a daring pitch: Why not build technology aimed directly at addressing the needs of low-income Americans? Now, after picking six fellows from a pool of 150 applicants, the Labs is showcasing some inspiring results: five promising examples of working civic tech tools that can demonstrably help the poorest among us. Read More

In NYC, Emergency Services Are Going Wireless--But Imagine What They'd Be Like With Fast Fiber

BY Susan Crawford | Thursday, August 14 2014

Now, with better and far more timely data, increasingly accurate and better targeted interventions, and coordination with the other medical systems that patients encounter, FDNY EMS is pushing the country towards a telemedicine future, writes Harvard Law Professor Susan Crawford. Read More

New US Digital Service Looks to Avoid IT Catastrophes

BY Alex Howard | Wednesday, August 13 2014

USDS' Mikey Dickerson at the 2009 MySQL Conference (Photo by Jorge Bernal)

At a time when the public's trust in institutions is at historic lows, the federal government's use of technology has an unusual place in the national discourse. After the first Internet president's administration was responsible for the high-profile failure of Healthcare.gov, the issue seemed ripe to drive significant reform on Capitol Hill. Even if some 10 million adults gained health insurance through the Affordable Care Act after "Obama's trauma team" made successful fixes to Healthcare.gov, negative public perception has lingered, and for good reason. Under the radar, other projects have continued to sputter, like a $300 million dollar Social Security government IT boondoggle that still has not delivered a working system for submitting disability claims. The crash of the FCC's dated website under the weight of 1.1 million comments this summer didn't help, either. At the same time, the confidence of the technology community has been damaged by revelations of dragnet surveillance and surreptitious backdoors planted in software. Now, the executive branch has launched two new initiatives aimed squarely at these issues, 18F and the just-announced US Digital Service, Alex Howard reports. Read More

WeGov

How Tech-Savvy Podemos Became One of Spain’s Most Popular Parties in 100 Days

BY Carola Frediani | Monday, August 11 2014

The Podemos banner asks, "When is the last time you voted with hope?" (Podemos Uvieu/flickr)

Podemos (“We Can”), a new Spanish party established in March 2014, disrupted their nation’s political scene when it swept up five seats out of 54 and 1.2 million votes (8% of the total) in the European elections in May even though it was only 100-days-old. With 704,585 likes on Facebook and 321,000 followers on Twitter, it has more online fans than any other Spanish political party.

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How the Open Source Election Technology Foundation is Remaking the Voter Experience

BY Miranda Neubauer | Tuesday, August 12 2014

VoteStream prototype

In its report released earlier this January, the Presidential Commission on Election Administration noted how an online registration tool developed by the Open Source Election Technology (OSET) Foundation that being used by Virginia and groups like Rock the Vote "highlights the way that voter information can be entered by a user in one setting and, through a simple platform, seamlessly integrated with a state’s registration list." Now, ahead of the 2014 midterms and with an eye to 2016, OSET''s Trust the Vote Project is stepping up its efforts to expand that functionality and other election innovations across the country, at the same time that the Bipartisan Policy Center has taken up the task of more broadly implementing the commission's recommendations as a whole throughout the states. Read More

In New York City and Silicon Valley, Local Government Innovation Gets Outside Help

BY Miranda Neubauer | Friday, August 8 2014

Bill signing with Ben Kallos, Bill de Blasio, Brad Lander, Noel Hidalgo and others (via @BenKallos on Twitter)

At this year's Personal Democracy Forum, executive director of digital at the British Cabinet Office Mike Bracken discussed how the push toward civic innovation often does not start from within government. "You have to start on the outside, you have to finish on the inside." Two announcements in in New York City and Silicon Valley this week illustrate an increasing interplay between government's desire to take advantage of technology potential and the capabilities and skills of the external civic technology community (and the new trend of mayoral selfies). Read More

Beyond @Congressedits, Capitol Hill Looks for Entry to Wikipedia

BY Miranda Neubauer | Thursday, July 31 2014

As he recently told techPresident, the creator of Congressedits did not aim to make Members of Congress look bad, but said he hoped that they would recognize the importance of Wikipedia as a public space and engage more with its community. "If staffers and politicians identified as Wikipedians, that would be super. You could imagine politicians' home pages with a list of their recent edits, that they would be proud of the things that they are doing." On Capitol Hill, there is in fact interest in making that vision a reality, starting off with an initial conversation that could create a framework for more Wikipedians in Congress. Read More

Google Street View Cars Measure Methane Gas Leaks

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, August 1 2014

Screenshot of the three EDF maps: Boston, Indianapolis, and Staten Island

Cities degrade. Potholes may jar us and delays due to construction may irritate us, but it is impossible to perceive the full extent of a city's decay. Environmental Defense Fund, however, has partnered with Google Earth Outreach to make visible one environmental hazard of aging infrastructure: natural gas leaks. Earlier this month they published maps of leaks in Boston, Indianapolis and Staten Island. The project was the first for which Google Earth Outreach deployed Street View cars for environmental research purposes.

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Civic Tech and Engagement: How SeeClickFix is Changing the Fabric of Local Reality

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, July 24 2014

To see how people using the Internet can thicken civic engagement in deep and positive ways, there is no better example than SeeClickFix.com, a community platform that was founded in 2008 by Ben Berkowitz, a computer programmer living in New Haven, Connecticut, and his friends Miles and Kam Lasater and Jeff Blasius. Read More

[Op-Ed] Civic Tech and Engagement: How City Halls Can Help Construct Stronger Neighborhoods

BY Susan Crawford | Tuesday, July 29 2014

Boston's new District Hall, a public-private partnership for civic innovation

Last week, the UN reported that more than half of humanity now lives in cities; by 2050 two-thirds of people will, up from just 30% in 1950. Given the grave challenges facing the world's booming urban areas—including global warming, economic dislocation, and crumbling basic infrastructure, among other torments—tomorrow's mayors will need to take bold steps to ensure their constituents live in dignity and safety. But public distrust of dysfunctional, faceless government is profound, resources are limited, gaps between groups are widening, and many are unaware of the role of government in their lives—which makes citizens less likely to support major initiatives. One way to fill the drained reservoir of public trust in municipal government, writes Susan Crawford, is to make city hall more visibly—and continuously—responsive. Digital technology can help: by using data to optimize the use of limited city resources and communicate clearly (with a friendly voice) across a range of platforms, a city can make life noticeably better for its citizens. Read More

Civic Tech and Engagement: Announcing a New Series on What Makes it "Thick"

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, July 24 2014

An old-fashioned barn-raising in Lansing, Canada (circa 1900-1919)

Announcing a new series of feature articles that we will be publishing over the next several months, thanks to the support of the Rita Allen Foundation. Our focus is on digitally-enabled civic engagement, and in particular, how and under what conditions "thick" digital civic engagement occurs. What we're after is answers to this question: When does a tech tool or platform enable actual people to make ongoing and significant contributions to each other, to a place or cause, at a scale that produces demonstrable change? Read More

Oakland's Sudo Mesh Looks to Counter Censorship and Digital Divide With a Mesh Network

BY Ben Valentine | Monday, July 21 2014

Sudo Mesh members mount a rooftop node as part of a mesh network project in Oakland (Credit: Matt Senate)

In Oakland, a city with deep roots in radical activism and a growing tech scene at odds with the hyper-capital-driven Silicon Valley, those at the Sudo Room hackerspace believe that the solution to a wide range of problems, from censorship to the digital divide, is a mesh net, a type of decentralized network that is resilient to censorship and disruption and can also bring connectivity to poor communities.

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WeGov

New Media Sites in Iran Blur Lines Between Citizen Journo, Professional Journo, & Activist

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, July 16 2014

A screenshot of the amateur video capturing Neda Agha-Soltan's death. The video won a prestigious Polk award.

In 2010, Newsweek declared Iran the “birthplace of citizen journalism.” Iranian bloggers were hailed by Westerners as “brave” for their coverage of the aftermath of the disputed 2009 election. A 40-second video of the death of Neda Agha-Soltan during an anti-government protest won a prestigious George Polk Award, the first anonymously-produced work to be so honored. And then came the 2013 study “Whither Blogestan,” which sought to explain Iran's shrinking blogosphere. Of nearly 25,000 highly active and connected blogs in 2008 and 2009, only 20 percent were still online in September 2013.

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How to Raise $5 Million Online For Campaign Finance Reform: Why MayDay PAC Succeeded

BY Ben Wikler | Monday, July 14 2014

Lawrence Lessig as the president from the movie "Independence Day" (photoshop by Represent.us)

When Lawrence Lessig's MayDay SuperPAC reached its $5 million crowd-funding goal on July 4, on top of an earlier first-push target of $1 million, observers were sent reeling. The target had seemed not just ambitious, but naive: there just couldn't possibly be enough people out there who cared enough. And even if there were, there was no way to reach them—Lessig and his team gave themselves less than two months for the entire campaign. Not only that, but if they fell short, the money would all be refunded. It was a fool's errand. And then, literally as fireworks exploded up and down the East Coast on Independence Day, they hit their goal. How did they do it? Read More

@Congressedits Hopes to See More Wikipedians in Congress

BY Miranda Neubauer | Monday, July 14 2014

In the future, could members of Congress list their Wikipedia edits on their homepage along with their voting records and constituent services? That is the vision of Congressedits, a Twitter feed that within only the past few days has helped popularize the idea of anonymously tracking government and instutional edits to Wikipedia pages around the world. Read More

Lawrence Lessig's Public Q&A on How His $12 million Super PAC Will Fix Campaign Finance

BY Rebecca Chao | Friday, July 11 2014

Lawrence Lessig talks to Change.org's Ben Wikler about his Super PAC to end all Super PACs (Screenshot from MayDay.Us)

After raising $12 million for MayDay, his Super PAC to end all Super PACs, Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig took questions from an online audience in a Q&A hosted by Change.org's Ben Wikler. Read More

New York City Payphone WiFi Project Presents Opportunities and Challenges

BY Miranda Neubauer | Tuesday, July 8 2014

Reinvent Payphones Prototype from Control Group & Titan (NYC Digital Tumblr)

While some technologists who have experience in the space share the concerns of some New York City Council members and current payphone franchisees that the city's decision to award the project to only one franchisee or one joint venture could hurt the project, the city and one of the companies preparing a response to the Request for Proposals see the approach as the best way to ensure a standard experience, competition and innovation. From both perspectives, the project illustrates how the vision for more accessible WiFi in New York is tied to the potential for innovation within the established procurement system. Read More

WeGov

While Jihad Waged in Iraq and Syria, Counter Narratives Go Online

BY Onnik James Krikorian | Thursday, July 3 2014

This is an infographic of attack metrics released by ISIS showing their 7,681 car bombings, suicide attacks and other acts

In a move as swift as any blitzkrieg on the ground, al-Qaeda offshoot the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) took many by surprise this week by announcing the creation of a ‘Caliphate.’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIS’s leader, was proclaimed ‘Ca-liph’ and leader ‘of jihadists everywhere’ while the group also announced that its name was to be changed to IS (Islamic State). Read More

HandUp Chips Away at Homelessness

BY Sam Roudman | Monday, June 30 2014

A cross section of people trying to raise money with HandUp.

Poverty is a social problem, but can it benefit from a business solution? According to HandUp, a San Francisco startup that teams with service organizations to channel donations directly towards those in need, the answer is yes. Co-founder and CEO Rose Broome started thinking about the issue a year and a half ago, after coming across a woman sleeping in the streets of San Francisco on a cold evening. Read More

Why Facebook's 'Voter Megaphone' Is the Real Manipulation to Worry About

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, July 3 2014

Two years ago, on the morning of the 2012 election in the United States, I got an email with an urgent subject line: "You should write the story of how Facebook blew an opportunity to turn out 300k voters." The sender, a veteran progressive online activist who would prefer to remain anonymous, was upset for good reason. The election was bound to be close, and as of 10am that morning he hadn't yet seen an "I'm Voting" button on his Facebook page, nor had another colleague of his. Nor was one on my own Facebook page. Given that when Facebook deployed a similar "I Voted" button in 2010, and added messages in users' News Feeds showing them the names and faces of friends who had said they voted, the cumulative effect boosted turnout then by at least 340,000 votes, these activists had good reason to be concerned. Facebook had announced that it was going to do the same thing in 2012, and this time around its American user base had grown enormously, from 61 million to more than 160 million. A social and visible nudge like an "I 'm Voting" button had the potential to measurably increase turnout, even more so as Facebook was including a useful tool to help people find their polling places. And yet on Election Day 2012 its deployment was far from universal. Facebook was conducting research on us. Read More

Charge of the Light Brigade: Is Sean Parker's Civic Startup Too Male and White?

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, June 25 2014

Screenshot from Brigade.com's About page

Brigade, the $9 million Silicon Valley civic engagement startup backed by billionaire Sean Parker that is promoting itself as restoring voters "to the center of our democracy," got a hard whack on Twitter today after it unveiled more details about its leadership team on its nascent website. Read More

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After Election Loss, Teachout and Wu Keep Up Net Neutrality and Anti-Comcast Merger Campaign

The Teachout/Wu campaign may have lost, but their pro net-neutrality campaign continued Monday as both former candidates participated in a rallly in New York City marking the final day to comment on the Federal Communications Commission's Internet proposals and kept up their pressure on Governor Andrew Cuomo. GO

friday >

NYC Politicians and Advocacy Groups Say Airbnb Misrepresents Sharing Economy

A coalition of New York election officials and affordable housing groups have launched an advocacy effort targeting Airbnb called "Share Better" that includes an ad campaign, a web platform, and social media outreach. GO

First POST: Data Dumps

The Internet Slowdown's impact on the FCC; Uber drivers try to go on strike; four kinds of civic tech; and much, much more. GO

thursday >

First POST: Positive Sums

How Teachout won some wealthy districts while Cuomo won some poor ones; DailyKos's explosive traffic growth; using Facebook for voter targeting; and much, much more. GO

wednesday >

First POST: Emergence

Evaluating the Teachout-Wu challenge; net neutrality defenders invoke an "internet slowdown"; NYC's first CTO; and much, much more. GO

tuesday >

De Blasio Names Minerva Tantoco First New York City CTO

Mayor Bill de Blasio named Minerva Tantoco as first New York City CTO Tuesday night in an announcement that was greeted with applause and cheers at the September meeting of the New York Tech Meet-Up. In his remarks, De Blasio said her task would be to develop a coordinated strategy for technology and innovation as it affects the city as a whole and the role of technology in all aspects of civic life from the economy and schools to civic participation, leading to a "redemocratization of society." He called Tantoco the perfect fit for the position as a somebody who is "great with technology, has a lot of experience, abiltiy and energy and ability to create from scratch and is a true New Yorker." GO

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