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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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WeGov

Analyzing Social Network Metadata to Uncover Censorship

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, March 12 2014

Screenshot of email metadata (MIT Immersion)

If you've entered your email into the MIT Media Lab Immersion platform, you might have some idea of the information that can be gleaned from metadata. The same is true of social networks like Twitter and Facebook. One researcher has found that analysis of social network metadata can reveal wide scale censorship with 85 percent accuracy, without needing to track sensitive keywords.

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WeGov

How Civic Hackathons Everywhere Can Learn from Latin America

BY Susannah Vila | Wednesday, March 12 2014

Hackers at Desarrollando America Latina (DAL) (credit: Buenos Aires Data/flickr)

Look at what the public or social sector in any major city is doing to leverage new technologies and you’re likely to find an abundance of unfinished and unused civic applications. Such graveyards of software applications are an unfortunate byproduct of of the app contests and hackathons that forward-thinking cities like to promote. Latin America has as many as any other part of the world, but it also has the Desarrollando America Latina (DAL) network. DAL is experimenting with new models for generating technology solutions to social problems. Efforts in other parts of the world - from New York to Nairobi - should study their lessons learned.

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First POST: The Senator Protests

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, March 12 2014

Why the blow-up between Senator Dianne Feinstein and the CIA threatens the decades-old deal between the national security state and Congress; President Obama goes on "Funny or Die;" the rising power of Black Twitter; and much, much more. Read More

WeGov

For Crimea, Dangerous Memes (And The Listicles to Combat Them)

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, March 11 2014

Because this definitely happened! (Global Voices)

Could memes be making the situation in Crimea worse?

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WeGov

Anyone Anywhere (with Internet) Can Look for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, March 11 2014

Screenshot of the current Tomnod instructions page

This morning I helped look for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, and you can, too. (The website seems to be back on its feet after a crash following a surge of visitors.)

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Public Good Software Lands Half A Million In Seed Funding to Bring Data-Driven Campaigning to NonProfits [UPDATED]

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Tuesday, March 11 2014

A group of former Obama techies want to port their campaign and entrepreneurial experiences to the world of non-profits, and help them to operate better. Read More

WeGov

Using Data and Statistics to Bring Down Dictators

BY Federico Guerrini | Monday, March 10 2014

War Graves in Kosovo (credit: NH53/flickr)

On September 20, 2013, in Guatemala, the former director of the National Police of Guatemala, Col. Héctor Bol de la Cruz, and his subordinate Jorge Alberto Gómez López were convicted for the abduction and presumed murder of student and labor leader Edgar Fernando García, who disappeared in 1984, during the conflict that devastated the South American country between 1960 and 1996. Three years earlier, two lower ranking officers were also convicted for the crime. The convictions were made possible thanks to the work of the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that uses statistical analysis to support the cause of human rights. Read More

WeGov

More Fodder For Social Media Activism Pessimists

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, March 10 2014

A recent study of the Save Darfur Facebook campaign found that the massive participation online gave the “illusion of activism rather than facilitating the real thing.” More evidence, if it was needed, that the “revolution will not be tweeted.”

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News Briefs

RSS Feed tuesday >

Ruck.us Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like Democracy.com

Ruck.us launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new Ruck.us is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and Democracy.com. And strangely enough, Ruck.us seems to want its early users to ask Democracy.com for help. GO

Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.

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monday >

The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.

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The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.

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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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