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Brazil's Open-Government Shock Treatment

BY Greg Michener | Wednesday, June 27 2012

Officials in Brazil's government have had a transparency shock treatment in the past year. Photo: Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz

Countries arrive at more transparency and greater freedom of information either through long training or sudden shock treatment.

The U.S. experience, with decades of incremental law and legal precedent, is synonymous with the archetypical training regime. Brazil, on the other hand, is undergoing the epitome of shock treatment. In one month, May 2012, Brazil formally launched an ambitious freedom of information law that outlines a "right to information" – replete with provisions for the release of information in open, computer-readable formats – and, at around the same time, a new open-data portal. For added shock, the Brazilian government inaugurated a second new fundamental right, the "right to historical truth." This right is embodied by the newly established Truth Commission, whose aim it is to reconcile abuses from the military dictatorship that controlled Brazil from 1964 to 1985. Brazil also currently occupies the co-chair of the Open Government Partnership. In short, Brazil is in the midst of a massive transparency offensive and there are positive signs that it is moving in the right direction.

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In Facebook Nation, Privacy Activists Trigger a Vote On Policy

BY Nick Judd | Friday, June 1 2012

Facebook's American stance on privacy clashes with European expectations. Image: Paul Butler

Way back in the long-long ago, before Facebook was a publicly traded company, the site established a governance policy that it said created room for its users to become part of the in-crowd that establishes its rules and norms. That hasn't stopped the regular reoccurrence of freakouts over design changes, revolts against adjustments to the terms of service, and the departure of this or that prominent writer or tech-head. After all, the governance mechanism — under which the company pledges to open up for broader user debate any proposed policy changes to accrue over 7,000 comments — had only been used once before.

Until today, that is, when a group of users led by Austrian Facebook birddogger Max Schrems accrued nearly 48,000 comments on proposed changes to the social network's data use policy. As a result, the policy is up for a vote by all Facebook users, presenting a rare test of the social network's ability to balance its status as a publicly traded company with its unique place in the digital public square.

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WeGov

Hoping to Help Curb Corruption in Morocco by Mapping It Online

BY Hanna Sistek | Wednesday, May 30 2012

Illustration: kentoh via Shutterstock

Tarik Nesh-Nash conceived of and became part of the team that built Mamdawrinch, a just-launched site to map incidents of bribery in Morocco. Built with Transparency Maroc, the Moroccan chapter of Transparency International, the site tackles what Nesh-Nash says is an "endemic" problem in the North African country. Transparency International ranks perception of corruption in Morocco as about as bad as it is in Greece and Columbia, but slightly better than in India. ("Mamdawrinch" means "we will not bribe" in Moroccan dialect.) The focus, says Nesh-Nash, is on the petty corruption that has become part of everyday life in Morocco. "I wanted to open up the debate on the topic," says Nesh-Nash. Read More

Changing Winds for Open Data at the National Weather Service

BY Miranda Neubauer | Friday, May 25 2012

Preview of weather.gov

The National Weather Service is going to update its weather alerts for the 21st century. Weather data has long been held up as a prime example of how government data can spur private enterprise, as an entire industry has evolved to interpret and package meteorological data coming from government sources. Now, the Weather Service is updating how it offers up that data for a next-generation weather industry. Read More

From the Tea Party to Progressives, Outside Groups Look Online to Train New Candidates

BY Miranda Neubauer | Friday, April 20 2012

Pedro Lopez, 19, is running for an Arizona school board. Photo: Pedro for Cartwright

As city and state legislatures become battlegrounds where the political right and left do combat over education reform, labor organizing and social issues, outside groups from both sides are looking online for recruits to fill their ranks of local elected officials.

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Things the DCCC Wants: "Targeting Interns"

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, February 15 2012

From a new job posting by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee comes the latest sign that data analysis is becoming a more and more basic skill with each passing day:

"The DCCC Targeting Team is seeking an intern to will assist with creating, revising, and implementing targeted voter contact plans. Duties will include data entry, data analysis, research, daily task tracking, using voter file data, and assisting with other projects."

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Did Newt Gingrich Lose Florida for Want of a Better API?

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, February 2 2012

Slate's Sasha Issenberg has a great story outlining one narrative about Newt Gingrich's loss in Florida: He inspired a group of tech-savvy volunteers, but gave them no way to plug in to the campaign. Read More

The Data Wars Go Local

BY Nick Judd | Monday, December 19 2011

Minnesotans United for All Families, a state-level group fighting for same-sex marriage rights, just put out a job posting for a "data manager." The responsibilities are a little more robust than what you'd find at a campaign just trying to cut turf for volunteers. They indicate a desire to use data to identify like-minded supporters, then connect them to one another and to voters — a kind of social-network-aware organizing approach that's been on the rise this year. Read More

The Political Right is Looking to Reclaim Data Superiority

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, November 9 2011

On Monday, the Guardian's Ed Pilkington hinted at the creation of a new database — either a "voter file" or "a database connecting millions of Americans" — to support the political causes and campaigns backed ... Read More

How Campaigns Use of Facebook Data Might Change the 2012 Election

BY Nick Judd | Monday, October 10 2011

More than in any other race to date, Americans may experience the 2012 presidential election through precisely targeted phone calls, visits, tweets and Facebook posts — messages not from the candidates themselves, ... Read More

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

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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