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WeGov

A First: Reporters Without Borders Declares UK, US “Enemies of the Internet”

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, March 17 2014

Screenshot of a graphic from the Reporters Without Borders report

It's official: the surveillance activities of the NSA and the GCHQ have earned the United Kingdom and the United States a new title: “Enemy of the Internet.” They share the honor with the likes of China, Cuba, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Syria, among others.

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WeGov

More Evidence That MOOCs Are Not Great Equalizers

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, March 17 2014

A survey by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania reveals that the majority of students enrolled in Coursera's massive open online courses or MOOCs are employed, degree-holding men.

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First POST: Openly Closed

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, March 17 2014

It's Sunshine Week, and the US government is less transparent, says AP; secret-sharing apps like Whisper and Secret are dangerous, says Austin Hill; and taking pictures of people in public now requires their permission, says Hungary; and much, much more. Read More

WeGov

The Fight for Democracy in Ukraine: A Conversation with Center UA's Svitlana Zalischuk

BY Micah L. Sifry | Sunday, March 16 2014

Svitlana Zalischuk speaking at PDF PL-CEE 2014, Warsaw (Photo: Onnik James Krikorian)

One of the highlights of this year's Personal Democracy Forum Poland-Central/Eastern Europe (PDF-PLCEE) conference last Thursday and Friday in Warsaw was the talk by Szitlana Zalischuk, the founder of Ukraine's Center UA civic group. "Democracy is weak," she warned the 300-plus attendees, who had come from 25 countries around the world to learn from each other about the potential of technology to enable positive social change. The "EuroMaidan" movement may have forced Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych out of office, but it was far from clear that non-violent civic activism was going to win the day in the face of an invasion of Crimea and more not-so-veiled threats of force from Russia. Like many other PDF-PLCEE attendees from the region, Zalischuk was both electrified by the victory of the EuroMaidan protest movement and deeply worried about the future. On Saturday, the day after PDF-PLCEE ended, we sat down together during an open data hackathon held in a conference room in Warsaw's new soccer stadium. Our interview, which took place in three parts, is embedded below. Read More

San Francico Selects Six Startups for "Entrepreneurship-in-Residence" Program

BY Miranda Neubauer | Saturday, March 15 2014

(Birdi via Facebook)

Six start-ups will be partnering with San Francisco city agencies to help develop innovative solutions to civic challenges touching on issues ranging from air quality to improving navigation at San Francisco International Airport, Mayor Edwin Lee announced Thursday. Read More

WeGov

Russia Blocks Major Opposition Sites; Anonymous Russia Retaliates, Shuts Down Kremlin Site

BY Rebecca Chao | Friday, March 14 2014

Russia has blocked a handful of independent news sites, including those of renown chess player and opposition leader Gary Kasparov and popular dissident blogger Alexei Nalvany. The block began Thursday with an announcement by Russia's general prosecutor's office that Kasparov's website and others would be shut down because they "contain calls for illegal activity and participation in mass events conducted in violation of the established order." Read More

WeGov

Using Technology to Try to Halt Death of 3,000+ Languages By 2100

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, March 13 2014

Screenshot of the National Geographic map of language hotspots

Of the roughly 7,000 languages spoken around the world today, more than half are expected to disappear this century. In an attempt to halt that alarming rate, linguists are working with communities around the world to use technology to try to preserve dying languages.

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WeGov

The Largest Loomio Project Yet

BY Rebecca Chao | Thursday, March 13 2014

Loomio goes to Greece (credit: screenshot of www.eda.org)

In many ways, open source is like a sperm bank: you never know what your offspring will look like or where they will end up unless they take the initiative to reach out. Benjamin Knight, a founder of the open source group decision-making platform known as Loomio, had his own Vince Vaughn "Delivery Man" moment when he got a call from Giorgio Mariotti from the Pirate Party of Hellas. Mariotti says he had used Loomio's open source to create 461 Loomio groups for each of the municipal to national levels of government in his country. Mariotti wanted to kickstart a process of direct democracy and needed to know: could Loomio's servers handle this many groups? Knight reassured Mariotti it could but that it was certainly the largest Loomio project to date. Read More

Chat Fights Back: XMPP Aims for Ubiquitous Encryption

BY Sam Roudman | Thursday, March 13 2014

Chat is a cornerstone of online communication. And it has been since the days when the allure of AOL chatrooms could justify a household's purchase of a second phone line (i.e. the mid to late '90s). But like any other online communication technology, the potential for chats to be eavesdropped, by hackers or governments, has kept pace with the growth of bandwidth. After Snowden, no one can assume otherwise. There are countermeasures available; Tor for instance is planning its own hyper secure messaging service. But its use will be confined to the technically super literate. The vast majority of chats will remain as vulnerable as ever. Read More

WeGov

How Does Lebanese Censorship Stack Up Against Chinese, Iranian and Russian?

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, March 12 2014

Kiss: banned (Wikipedia)

Since 2011 the NGO March Lebanon has been curating examples of censorship in Lebanon in a Virtual Museum of Censorship.

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Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

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wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

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The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.

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tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.

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Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.

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monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.

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