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Why Facebook's 'Voter Megaphone' Is the Real Manipulation to Worry About

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, July 3 2014

Two years ago, on the morning of the 2012 election in the United States, I got an email with an urgent subject line: "You should write the story of how Facebook blew an opportunity to turn out 300k voters." The sender, a veteran progressive online activist who would prefer to remain anonymous, was upset for good reason. The election was bound to be close, and as of 10am that morning he hadn't yet seen an "I'm Voting" button on his Facebook page, nor had another colleague of his. Nor was one on my own Facebook page. Given that when Facebook deployed a similar "I Voted" button in 2010, and added messages in users' News Feeds showing them the names and faces of friends who had said they voted, the cumulative effect boosted turnout then by at least 340,000 votes, these activists had good reason to be concerned. Facebook had announced that it was going to do the same thing in 2012, and this time around its American user base had grown enormously, from 61 million to more than 160 million. A social and visible nudge like an "I 'm Voting" button had the potential to measurably increase turnout, even more so as Facebook was including a useful tool to help people find their polling places. And yet on Election Day 2012 its deployment was far from universal. Facebook was conducting research on us. Read More

First POST: Contagious

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, June 30 2014

Facebook's manipulation of its users' News Feeds makes news; the new NSA director shrugs at Snowden while protests grow; how the Supreme Court's Riley decision may affect government surveillance practices; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Unwarranted

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, June 26 2014

The Supreme Court says "get a warrant"; how the Snowden Effect is leading to promised improvements in European privacy protections and a balkanized Internet; Sean Parker's Brigade attracts criticism for its male-heavy leadership team; and much, much more. Read More

Charge of the Light Brigade: Is Sean Parker's Civic Startup Too Male and White?

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, June 25 2014

Screenshot from Brigade.com's About page

Brigade, the $9 million Silicon Valley civic engagement startup backed by billionaire Sean Parker that is promoting itself as restoring voters "to the center of our democracy," got a hard whack on Twitter today after it unveiled more details about its leadership team on its nascent website. Read More

First POST: Better Underwear

BY Rebecca Chao | Friday, June 13 2014

Elon Musk goes open source with his cars; the Snowdenbot saves a life; the New York Times and "better underwear"; and much much more. Read More

WeGov

92% of Pakistanis Encounter Online Hate Speech, Survey Finds

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, June 9 2014

Malala Yousafzai meets with President Obama (Photo: Pete Souza/White House)

In 2012, just after then 14-year-old activist Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by masked Taliban gunmen, the Pakistani cyberspace was briefly united—as pro-women and pro-education—but not for long. Soon a counter-narrative emerged, depicting Yousafzai as a pawn of the United States, or even a willing operative, and obscured the facts of her attack. Even a journalist who claims to support Yousafzai's cause, the universal right to education, has dismissed her as a “good native” that the West is using to act out their “savior complex,” which one could argue illustrates the “warped mindset” that the pro-Taliban narrative has spread amongst Pakistanis, and the potential real-world effects of hate speech.

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First POST: Power Shifts

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, June 3 2014

#ResetTheNet starts to gain momentum; how Facebook could tilt an election; #BringBackOurGirls gets banned in Nigeria; and much, much more. Read More

WeGov

Face Off in Chile: Net Neutrality v. Human Right to Facebook & Wikipedia

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, June 2 2014

Photo: Wikipedia

Is Internet access a human right, as important as access to education, healthcare and housing? Mark Zuckerberg thinks so, and it inspired him to launch internet.org, an initiative to connect “the next five billion.” So does the United Nations, which declared Internet access a human right in 2011, one that should not be denied even in times of conflict as a means of quelling unrest. And yet the latest blow to cheap and easy access to the Internet (and by the Internet we mean Facebook, Twitter, and Wikipedia) comes not from an authoritarian state cracking down on an unruly population, but from a government playing by the rules of net neutrality.

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Not All Bold-Faced Names in Silicon Valley Support Ro Khanna. Here's Why.

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Monday, June 2 2014

Investor Andy Rappaport, in the blue office shirt, beard and glasses, held a fundraiser for Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) last week

Andy Rappaport, a Bay Area financier and technologist, is bucking the trend among the well-heeled and backing Silicon Valley incumbent Democrat Rep. Mike Honda. Here he explains why. Read More

WeGov

Amidst "Apocalyptic" Floods, People of the Balkans Use Facebook for Relief and Rescue

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, May 30 2014

One of the many photos flagged as fake.

The floods that have ravaged the Balkans this month have been called “apocalyptic” and the resulting damage, officials say, is likely worse than the damage incurred during the three year conflict between Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats in the 1990s. At least 74 people died because of the flooding and nearly 900,000 were forced from their homes. The governments in Serbia and Bosnia, as well as foreign media, have been criticized for failing victims and the region as a whole. Meanwhile, social media, and Facebook in particular, has been heralded as a tool for “information-sharing, social activism, voluntary work, and even a watchdog mechanism.”

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News Briefs

RSS Feed friday >

First POST: Tracking

Questions about whether Whisper is secretly tracking its users' secrets; the FBI's continued push against the new wave of encrypted phones; community service, high-tech-mogul-style; and much, much more. GO

thursday >

First POST: Hosts

Airbnb in hot water in NYC; Knight Prototype Fund backs some civic tech projects; pondering Google's position on net neutrality; and much, much more. GO

wednesday >

First POST: Africa Calling

How some techies are starting to respond to the Ebola crisis; everything you need to know about GamerGate; how Twitter may upset the 2015 UK elections; and much, much more. GO

tuesday >

First POST: Burrowing

How Democratic candidates down-ballot are getting access to the same voter targeting tools used by larger campaigns; Microsoft Bing rolls out its election prediction program; Edward Snowden's first emails to Laura Poitras; and much, much more. GO

monday >

First POST: Attending

New revelations from Laura Poitras' film Citizen Four; how India's new real-time online attendance system for government officials works; tech critic Evgeny Morozov in hot water; and much, much more. GO

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