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How the White House Petition Site is Becoming a Digital Public Square

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, January 23 2013

Click throughs on the White House response to the "Death Star" petition

Most of the time, there is a huge disconnect between government and public. For years governments in the United States and Europe have been throwing money (away) at so-called e-government initiatives aimed at engaging the public, with the primary result of fattening lots of consultants' and designers' wallets. Most "e-government" platforms are relative ghost-towns. Meanwhile, as the Pew Center on the Internet & Public Life keeps reporting, the level of public discussion of politics online keeps rising--just not in places where it connects in any meaningful way with actual decision-makers. The "We the People" site is an important and growing exception to that rule. Read More

WeGov

How "We The People," the White House e-Petition Site, Could Help Form a More Perfect Union

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, November 20 2012

With nearly one million people signing petitions on the White House's "We the People" e-petition site calling for their state to secede from the Union, it's tempting to dismiss the platform as a lightning rod for the most disaffected Americans. But people petitioning the government could also be invited into a new kind of civic dialogue, one that might build on what "We the People" already promises: an official reply from the powers-that-be. Freed from the demands of another election and blessed with some of the smartest technologists in the country, the Obama Administration could use "We the People" to begin the work of constructing a real digital public square, not just another e-Potemkin village. Will they? Read More

A Dispatch From a Project to Build Wired Neighborhoods

BY Miranda Neubauer | Wednesday, May 9 2012

A new report documents the efforts of a group advocating for online spaces for civic life to build Internet forums for diverse, low-income communities online. Much of the report focuses on the challenges and the opportunities for growing the forums, and how both offline and online outreach played a key role. It also raises an interesting question: In tight-knit communities that have long held together offline, why ask members to go online at all? Read More

Using an Online Forum, One Woman Describes Coping With a Sexual Assault

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, November 30 2010

"I want to tell you that my children and I are doing quite well considering that we had a gun held to our chests only three days ago," the message read, in a simple sans-serif font. A person named Alexandra Ellison ... Read More

eDem10: A Look at Best Methods for Democratic (and Undemocratic) e-Participation

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, May 6 2010

I'm in Krems, Austria for the two-day eDemocracy2010 conference (hashtag #eDem10), where I'll be giving a keynote talk tomorrow on "The Promise and Contradictions of e-Democracy, Obama-Style." The conference brings ... Read More

Let Congress Tele-commute: A Radical, Common-Sense Proposal to Transform Representative Government

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, February 19 2010

If you haven't noticed already, I like "crazy" ideas. That is, notions that may appear like they come from outside the ballpark, but have a germ of possibility and suggest, "There might be a better way to do things than ... Read More

Today's Obama-YouTube Q&A: Moving the Ball Forward [UPDATED]

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, February 1 2010

Today's YouTube event at the White House, starring President Obama, CitizenTube director Steve Grove, and a bunch of user-generated questions from the public, has to be judged a success, in my view. Read More

MoveOn.org Doing Real-Time Mass Dial-Test of Obama SOTU

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, January 27 2010

MoveOn.org, the five-million member e-organization of progressive activists, is doing something really interesting with its members tonight: thousands of them are going to be participating in a live online dial-test of ... Read More

Use Your iPhone to Sign a Ballot Initiative: Test Case Launches in CA

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, January 5 2010

If you can sign an electronic pad at the supermarket to pay your credit card bill, why can't you sign the touch-screen of your iPhone to sign a political petition? That question is now being put to the test by the ... Read More

"Ask U.S.": State Department 2.0 on Sudan, Darfur and Public Engagement

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, November 9 2009

Tomorrow afternoon at 3:00pm EST, Special Envoy Scott Gration and Samantha Power, NSC Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs, are going to sit down at the White House with the leaders of the largest, most vocal ... Read More

News Briefs

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Civic Hackers Call on de Blasio to Fill Technology Vacancies

New York City technology advocates on Wednesday called on the de Blasio administration to fill vacancies in top technology policy positions, expressing some frustration at the lack of a leadership team to implement a cohesive technology strategy for the city. GO

China's Porn Purge Has Only Just Begun, And Already Sina Is Stripped of Publication License

It seems that China is taking spring cleaning pretty seriously. On April 13 they launched their most recent online purge, “Cleaning the Web 2014,” which will run until November. The goal is to rid China's Internet of pornographic text, pictures, video, and ads in order to “create a healthy cyberspace.” More than 100 websites and thousands of social media accounts have already been closed, after less than a month. Today the official Xinhua news agency reported that the authorities have stripped the Internet giant Sina (of Sina Weibo, the popular microblogging site) of its online publication license. This crackdown on porn comes on the heels of a crackdown on “rumors.” Clearly, this spring cleaning isn't about pornography, it's about censorship and control.

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Another Co-Opted Hashtag: #MustSeeIran

The Twitter hashtag #MustSeeIran was created to showcase Iran's architecture, landscapes, and would-be tourist destinations. It was then co-opted by activists to bring attention to human rights abuses and infringements. Now Twitter is home to two starkly different portraits of a country. GO

What Has the EU Ever Done For Us?: Countering Euroskepticism with Viral Videos and Monty Python

Ahead of the May 25 European Elections, the most intense campaigning may not be by the candidates or the political parties. Instead, some of the most passionate campaigns are more grassroots efforts focused on for a start stirring up the interest of the European electorate. GO

At NETmundial Brazil: Is "Multistakeholderism" Good for the Internet?

Today and tomorrow Brazil is hosting NETmundial, a global multi-stakeholder meeting on the future of Internet governance. GO

Brazilian President Signs Internet Bill of Rights Into Law at NetMundial

Earlier today Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned Marco Civil, also called the Internet bill of rights, during the global Internet governance event, NetMundial, in Brazil.

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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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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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