You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Democracy Club Finally Lets Brits Know Who Is Running for Parliament

BY Wendy M. Grossman | Wednesday, April 22 2015

May 7, 2015 is the date of the next British general election. On that day, everyone who cares to vote will go to their local polling station, pick up a small piece of paper, and mark on it, with a stubby pencil, their choice of candidate for Member of Parliament. The person with the most votes in each district wins. If one party wins a majority of the 650 Parliamentary seats, that party can form a government. If no party wins a majority, there will be a lot of dickering to form a coalition, as there was at the last election, in 2010, when the Liberal Democrats emerged as kingmaker and chose to ally with the Conservatives. By doing so, the LibDems offended so many of their own supporters that their number of Parliamentary seats is expected to drop precipitously this time round. According to a recent poll by the Guardian, the next government could well be a coalition of Labour and…the Scottish National Party. Read More

With Fiskkit, Anyone Can Criticize the Media

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, April 1 2015

(Comic by xkcd)

Wouldn't it be nice if there was only one day a year that people were wrong on the Internet? Unfortunately, that's simply not the case. And the problem doesn't stop with fake news. (Although that in itself is such a problem that The Washington Post puts out a fake news roundup every Friday.) There are more insidious problems in media: biased wording, overly general, overly simplistic or unsupported claims, and false assertions. These are just a few of the things that one can flag on the new social media platform, Fiskkit, which recently won the 2015 Launch Fest Social Impact Award. Read More

In Utah, Participatory Democracy Powered by Loomio and NationBuilder

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, March 26 2015

(Ricardo630/Wikipedia)

Earlier this week, The People's Lobby launched their first participatory democracy experiment in Provo, a city of just over 115,000 people in north-central Utah. Incorporating tools from both Loomio and NationBuilder, the process is meant to foster increased community participation in city government.

Read More

Secrecy in the So-Called "Most Transparent" Administration in US History

BY Jason Ross Arnold | Wednesday, March 18 2015

How much has changed, really? (Eric Draper/White House)

We used to hear more from President Obama about his aspirations to lead the “most transparent” administration in American history. From the 2008 campaign through early 2013, administration officials – including the big guy – continued to beat the most transparent drum, promising the (clear) sky, and insisting they had already delivered, or were on the cusp. The White House has since toned down the lofty, boastful messaging. Perhaps they were chastened by all of the bipartisan criticism and late-night television mockery of the administration’s actions in light of its claims. But Obama’s pledge to create an “unprecedented level of openness” still stands proudly at the top of the White House’s open government webpage, a sign that it remains a priority (or a monument whose removal would be too embarrassing a concession). Sunshine week provides a perfect opportunity to evaluate the record: where between most transparent and “most closed, control-freak” should we place Obama-Biden?

Read More

New Organization, Data Justice, to Work on Society's Big Data Problem

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, March 17 2015

Lady Justice (LonPicMan/Wikipedia)

Yesterday saw the public launch of Data Justice, a new organization dedicated to promoting economic justice in our data-driven society. Simultaneous with the announcement, the organization released its first report, “Taking on Big Data as an Economic Justice Issue,” written by Data Justice director Nathan Newman.

Read More

Next-Generation Political Crowdfunding Platforms Reimagine Small Dollar Giving

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, March 13 2015

Pennies can add up. (Wikipedia)

At a Social Media Week event held at Civic Hall last month, Benjamin Yee, a former Democratic campaign fundraiser, asked a conference room full of people if they had ever donated money to a political campaign. Nearly everyone raised a hand. When asked if they felt it had ever made a difference: not a one. Even if someone does feel like they have been a part of something bigger—one of the many small donors who helped carry Barack Obama to victory, for example—that in no way means that the candidate you back knows why you contributed or what you hope they will do once in office. Money talks, but only if you have enough to get a phone call or an invite to a fundraising event. Everything else is just chatter.

Read More

The Rising Fight Against ISIS on Social Media

BY Onnik James Krikorian | Thursday, March 12 2015

Typical Twitter profile pictures used by ISIS supporters (Photo courtesy J.M. Berger and Jonathon Morgan)

In 2013, Humera Khan, Executive Director of D.C.-based think tank Muflehun, watched as a teenager was radicalised and recruited on Twitter. “Over the course of two years,” she recently recounted for Foreign Affairs, “that individual went from an activist championing minority rights to supporting Jabhat al Nusra (al Qaeda in Syria), and in a final shift of allegiance, to one of the the largest distributors of ISIS propaganda. He is now in Syria.” Despite reporting the case to the law enforcement agencies in the United States, Khan says her warnings fell on deaf ears. But in the wake of a sophisticated online media campaign that includes a number of gruesome videos of beheadings, governments are starting to take the use of social media by groups such as ISIS more seriously.

Read More

Inbox Zero: Why Hillary Clinton's Email Mess Isn't Over

BY Alex Howard | Tuesday, March 10 2015

Today's press conference at the United Nations will not quell the controversy raised by a report from the New York Times that former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton exclusively used a personal email account for government business at the State Department from 2009 to 2012. If you missed the political event of the day and want to watch or read it for yourself, unvarnished and unspun, on-demand video is available from C-SPAN and the Washington Post has published a full transcript.

Read More

How a "Holy Shit Visualization" Could Transform Detroit

BY Ethan Zuckerman | Monday, March 9 2015

Screenshot of "Why don't we own this?"

What’s a “holy shit visualization”? It’s a way of looking at data that makes turns a statistic you might have flipped past in a book or skimmed by on a web page into something that you can’t forget. It’s a visceral reminder of the power of images and the power of looking at dry numbers in human terms.

Read More

With Quorum, See What (and Who) Makes Congress Tick

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, March 5 2015

(Wikipedia)

Trying to influence Congress is hard work. You have to know who cares about what issues so you approach the right people. It also helps to know who has the power to actually make waves so you don't waste your time with ineffective members. In January, two Harvard seniors launched an online platform called Quorum that does the bulk of that work automatically, using a number of public data sources.

Read More