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

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

Thursday, July 24 2014

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?

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First POST: Experiments

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, July 29 2014

Lessig's MayDayPAC announces its first targets; Pierre Omidyar explains where First Look Media is going; OKCupid shares some experiments it's done on users; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Unlocking

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, July 28 2014

Why the GOP is having trouble catching up to the Dems on tech; how the cellphone unblocking bill shows the Internet's power (or not); civil rights groups "sell out" on net neutrality; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Software for Good

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, July 25 2014

Is the Internet not "Ready for Hillary"?; Streisand, the new anti-censorship tool; how Benentech develops software for good; and much, much more. Read More

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

First POST: Precrime

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, July 24 2014

How the US government determines who to put on its "known or suspected terrorist" list, no-fly list and selectee list; Israelis sharing Gaza casualty news over social media; Twitter's diversity report; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Angry News Feed

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, July 23 2014

How Facebook's News Feed may be accentuating negative political polarization; new tools for visualizing political corruption; how posting your cat's photo online gives away your location; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Addressable Transcendence

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, July 22 2014

What San Francisco techies and tenant activists have in common; the future of online political targeting; problems with Washington DC's new open data policies; and much, much more. 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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First POST: Power Brokers

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, July 21 2014

Why Microsoft's Bradford Smith is so influential in tech policy; the split between DailyKos and Netroots Nation; how the GOP is wooing conservative and libertarian techies; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Signals

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, July 18 2014

FCC in the cross-hairs on net neutrality and local broadband pre-emption; the political mood at Netroots Nation; how an Israeli rocket-alert app affects perceptions of the conflict with Gaza; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Disclosures

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, July 17 2014

Rand Paul goes prospecting in Silicon Valley; techies opening their wallets for Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu in New York; using Google Street View for local environmental monitoring; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Some Comments

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, July 16 2014

The battle against CISA heats up; the FCC's servers melt down over net neutrality; Elizabeth Warren fans organize for her online; and much, much more. Read More

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

First POST: Headlining

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, July 15 2014

Republican efforts to catch up to Democratic techies begin to bear fruit; TV ads are getting targeted at specific viewers; comments to the FCC on its net neutrality/open Internet proposal close down; and much, much more. 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

First POST: New Bosses

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, July 14 2014

The battle over the UK's emergency surveillance legislation gets hotter; Color of Change goes after Congressional Black Caucus members over net neutrality; deep thoughts about self-driving cars and Amazon; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Unequal Relationships

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, July 11 2014

A rush to legislate new data collection law in the UK is drawing pushback; how the cellphone unlocking movement is a great example of "internet activism"; why journalists should fear Facebook; and much, much more. 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

First POST: Solely

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, July 10 2014

Human rights and civil rights group call for answers on NSA/FBI spying on American Muslims; Senator Warner asks FTC for new regulations on big data usage; what political uprisings have to do with Brazil's World Cup collapse; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: First They Came For the Muslims

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, July 9 2014

The Intercept details NSA and FBI surveillance of Muslim-American civic leaders; Om Malik urges Google and Facebook to take their big data responsibilities more seriously; the New York Public Library attacks the digital divide; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Seers

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, July 8 2014

Obama campaign guru predicts campaigns by hologram; the Senate intelligence committee takes up cybersecurity; a report card on Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Intercepted

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, July 7 2014

NSA intercepts of foreign targets capture data mainly from Americans and other uninvolved parties; Participant Media's new tool for determining the impact of socially-conscious media; Lawrence Lessig's MayDayPAC hits its July 4th crowdfunding goal; and much, much more. 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

First POST: Don't Forget

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, July 3 2014

How Google is starting to implement the "right to be forgotten" decision in Europe; more Facebook research experiments on its users; Lawrence Lessig teams up with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Do Not Fold, Spindle or Manipulate

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, July 2 2014

More on the Facebook emotional contagion controversy; how local governments and law enforcement are embracing social media; how the Internet Archive is tracking Philadelphia's news ecosystem; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Contagious

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, June 30 2014

Facebook's manipulation of its users' News Feeds makes news; the new NSA director shrugs at Snowden while protests grow; how the Supreme Court's Riley decision may affect government surveillance practices; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Pitches and Forks

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, June 27 2014

FCC chairman Wheeler sounds out Silicon Valley on net neutrality; Chris Soghoian schools German parliamentarians on their own surveillance state; tech billionaire Nick Hanauer warns of class warfare; and much, much more. 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

WeGov

Libya Uses World's First Mobile Voter Registration System for Parliament Elections

BY Rebecca Chao | Wednesday, June 25 2014

An advertisement for SMS voter registration in Tripoli. (Credit: Josh Levinger)

In just six months, a small staff of 20 people using open source tools, built a complex, first-of-its-kind mobile registration system in Libya, a transitioning country beset with violence. Today, Libyans will vote for a new parliament and 1.5 million citizens have registered. Since the fall of Libya's long-ruling dictator, Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the violence and tribal clashes that plague the country have overshadowed the work of a new government straining to rebuild it through innovation and openness. Read More

First POST: Unwarranted

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, June 26 2014

The Supreme Court says "get a warrant"; how the Snowden Effect is leading to promised improvements in European privacy protections and a balkanized Internet; Sean Parker's Brigade attracts criticism for its male-heavy leadership team; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Media Futures

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, June 24 2014

The Knight Foundation gives $3.4 million to groups expanding the open Internet; Comcast and NBC hackathon winners promote entertainment apps; Rock the Vote relaunches its website; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Trafficking

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, June 23 2014

Booker-Rubio bill to expand Wi-Fi spectrum launches; House members cryptoparty on the Hill; Chicago's new sensor network has fans and detractors; and much, much more. Read More

How the White House's We the People E-Petition Site Became a Virtual Ghost-Town

BY Dave Karpf | Friday, June 20 2014

The White House once boasted that 5.4 million people have created We The People accounts, resulting in 9.2 million signatures. But the statistic only shows that there are less than 2 signatures per person, which means that the average user is signing a single petition and then never returning again. David Karpf explains how and why the White House's e-petition site has failed to take off. Read More

WeGov

Nawaat Pushes Boundaries in Tunisia With New Whistleblowing Platform

BY Rebecca Chao | Wednesday, June 18 2014

The activists that brought the world TuniLeaks and helped to topple a dictatorial regime has now built a whistleblowing site to push for greater transparency in Tunisia. Read More

WeGov

Clinton Discusses Balance of Privacy and Security, Snowden, in German TV Interview

BY Miranda Neubauer | Monday, June 16 2014

ZDF Screenshot

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasized the importance of establishing a balance between curtailing some surveillance overreach and protecting international security in an interview with German television, while expressing wariness and skepticism about Edward Snowden's choices. Read More

WeGov

[Interview] MEP Marietje Schaake Says We Need Global Collaboration to Keep the Internet Open

BY Antonella Napolitano | Friday, June 13 2014

MEP Marietje Schaake at PDF14 (Photo: Esty Stein/Personal Democracy)

A video interview with MEP Schaake on the PDF conference, working with citizen empowerment and next steps for the European Parliament on digital rights. Read More

In New York, Open Government Visions Come Down to Nuts and Bolts

BY Miranda Neubauer | Friday, June 13 2014

New York City Council Legistar System

Currently, it is not possible for New Yorkers to easily sign up to track updates on City Council meetings and legislative activities. But in fact, there could be an easy fix for the problem that could help transform how members of the public engage with their government. That is what emerged from a #PDF14 workshop that illustrated how the realization of visions for open government in New York often comes down to wonky nuts and bolts issues related to government web platforms, procurement and access to open data. Read More

[Transcript] Surveillance and Its Discontents: A Conversation Across Cyberspace with Edward Snowden and John Perry Barlow

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, June 12 2014

John Perry Barlow and Edward Snowden at PDF14 (Photo: Doc Searls/Flickr)

A full transcript of the Personal Democracy Forum 2014 keynote, Surveillance and its Discontents: A Conversation Across Cyberspace, with Edward Snowden and John Perry Barlow Read More

First POST: Better Underwear

BY Rebecca Chao | Friday, June 13 2014

Elon Musk goes open source with his cars; the Snowdenbot saves a life; the New York Times and "better underwear"; and much much more. Read More

Muckrock Looks to Track the Trackers

BY Sam Roudman | Thursday, June 12 2014

Majestic cellphone tower. Credit: Raymond Shobe, Flickr

Police have the ability to trace you from your cellphone, track you from your social media activity, and even collect or buy data on where you've been driving. But the degree of surveillance –knowledge of which police ... Read More

First POST: PDF14 Day Two

BY Rebecca Chao | Saturday, June 7 2014

Brian Chesky on Airbnb and the economy; Anne-Marie Slaughter on five ways for a new America; Clay Shirky on why time is our weapon; and much much more. Read More

Towards More Effective Civic Innovation with Anthea Watson Strong

BY Sam Roudman | Monday, June 9 2014

Anthea Watson Strong at PDF. Credit: PDF Flickr

In a talk entitled “The Calculus of Civic Innovation,” Anthea Watson Strong discussed how tools for civic engagement might be made more effective. Read More

Edward Snowden, a Year Later

BY Fabio Chiusi | Wednesday, June 4 2014

A protest against the European parliament's refusal to offer Snowden protection (greensefa/flickr)

One year has passed since Edward Snowden revealed himself to the world as the whistleblower who leaked hundreds of National Security Agency documents and exposed the true scope and workings of its mass surveillance operations. What have we learned thanks to Snowden's revelations? What has the government done and has anything changed for the better? Read More

How the Internet Saves at #PDF14 (Updated)

BY Rebecca Chao | Friday, June 6 2014

The Internet is saving politics, philanthropy and us. Read More

WeGov

When Your Government Trolls You: A #PDF14 Conversation on Memes and Movements

BY Antonella Napolitano | Friday, June 6 2014

The keyword "hairy bacon", derogatory term referred to Mao Zedong's corpse, proliferated in many forms on the Chinese Internet.

At Personal Democracy Forum, a session called “From memes to movements,” practitioners and researchers explored how the irreverent humor of memes is used by citizens that live in countries with limited opportunities of expressing themselves. Read More

Building Government Up, Not Tearing it Down

BY Rebecca Chao | Friday, June 6 2014

What role does the government play in innovation and protecting democracy? Read More

First POST: PDF14 Day One

BY Rebecca Chao | Friday, June 6 2014

Edward Snowden's talk with EFF's John Perry Barlow; Reset the Net; surveillance burkas; and much much more from the first day of #PDF14. Read More

Defining the Sharing Economy, Dissecting its Merits

BY Sam Roudman | Thursday, June 5 2014

What is the sharing economy? Today's PDF panel "Defining and Debating the Sharing Economy" yielded a broad spectrum of responses from its panelists. Very broad. Author Adam Greenfield said it didn't exist because true ... Read More

WeGov

From Memes to Movements

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, June 5 2014

Tweets about the #PDF14 break-out sessions on using memes to launch and build movements Read More

Adam Harvey Fashioning a Way Around Surveillance

BY Sam Roudman | Thursday, June 5 2014

In 2010 when Adam Harvey began a project using fashion to sidestep facial recognition, the project wasn't always taken seriously. "I didn't think it was too far away from reality, but at that time privacy was not a ... Read More

Democracy.com Shines Searchlight on Candidates and Elected Officials

BY Miranda Neubauer | Thursday, June 5 2014

Democracy.com announced Thursday that it has unveiled what it calls the most comprehensive searchable database of American elected officials, candidates, appointees and political organizations at all levels of government. As techPresident previously reported, the non-partisan Democracy.com platform launched last fall with the aim of establishing a social network for politics with a focus on helping local candidates have access to a professional web presence and fundraising tools. With the rollout of the expanded search function, Democracy.com hopes to take another step towards making the political process more accessible in spite of a fractured American political landscape, explained Talmage Cooley, founder and CEO of Democracy.com. Read More

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Beyond @Congressedits, Capitol Hill Looks for Entry to Wikipedia

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. GO

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In the Philippines, Citizens Go Undercover With Bantay to Monitor Public Offices

The Philippines, a country of almost 100 million, is considered among the most corrupt country in Southeast Asia, despite a boost in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index in the past few years (from 134th in 2010 to 94th in 2013 out of 175.) Corruption involves all levels of government, but benefits also from a mindset of tolerance, says Happy Feraren, the co-founder of Bantay.ph, an anti-corruption educational initiative that teaches citizens how to monitor the quality of government services, sometimes by going undercover. GO

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NYC Open Data Advocates Focus on Quality And Value Over Quantity

The New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications plans to publish more than double the amount of datasets this year than it published to the portal last year, new Commissioner Anne Roest wrote last week in an annual report mandated by the city's open data law, with 135 datasets scheduled to be released this year, and almost 100 more to come in 2015. But as preparations are underway for City Council open data oversight hearings in the fall, what matters more to advocates than the absolute number of the datasets is their quality. GO

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