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First POST: Precognition

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, August 30 2013

Exclusively for Personal Democracy Plus subscribers: New revelations about the government's "black budget," new warnings about facial recognition technology; and some hints about 2016 and tech from the RNC's CTO and Democratic campaign strategist Joe Trippi. Read More

If Obama Wins on Tuesday, Give the Nerds More Credit

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, November 5 2012

While Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, math nerd and poll-meister supreme, has gotten a tremendous amount of attention of late for his confident prediction of an Obama victory in tomorrow's election, the largely unwritten story of 2012 includes a different group of math nerds who specialize in figuring out which voters might be persuaded to vote for their candidate and then making sure that they maximize the number of people who actually come out to vote that way. We know very little about their work for two big reasons. First, neither campaign has wanted to tip off their opponent to what they're doing, and second, with just a few rare exceptions, political reporters and their story-assignment editors aren't even looking to find out. But tomorrow is the biggest test yet for their analytic approach to targeting, persuading and turning out voters. Read More

[CALL - JOIN US]: Thursday, 1 p.m.: What Ad Targeting Is Doing to Democracy

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, May 2 2012

We all know how the Internet is enhancing the power of citizens to band together to take action around common causes. And these days you can hardly spend more than a few minutes online before you bump into some campaign led by consumers taking on a company, demanding changes and often getting them. But what if while all this is going on, a deeper power shift is under way that is quietly tilting the playing field towards anyone with the money and motive to manipulate web users by collecting all kinds of data about them and then assiduously targeting people in ways they're barely aware of? That's just one of the big questions I'm looking forward to covering on this Thursday's PDPlus call with Joseph Turow, author of the valuable new book, "The Daily You: How the New Advertising Industry is Defining Your Identity and Your Worth." RSVP here. Read More

The Data Superiority Wars Take a Semantic Turn

BY Nick Judd | Friday, April 6 2012

Well known to many is "microtargeting," the practice of gathering data on individual supporters from across a variety of sources, profiling those supporters to identify the right cohort to reach with a given message, and then reaching out — perhaps in selectively placed online ads. The New York Times' Nick Confessore writes that the successor to Voter Vault, the Republican National Committee's current voter database, will instead "nano-target," whatever that means — while it probably means picking out individual voters as opposed to groups, no definition is offered in the piece — to the derision of some on the left. Read More

Election 2012: It's Not Facebook. It's the Data, Stupid.

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, April 20 2011

Now that President Obama, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty have all declared their intentions to run for President in 2012 and rolled out their initial campaign ... Read More

Inside the "Hope Factory": Max Harper on the Obama Media Machine

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, May 4 2009

Run, don't walk, to go watch Max Harper's detailed presentation on the "Hope Factory," the Obama campaign's system for connecting media, membership, fundraising and activism over the course of 2008 race. I've seen and ... Read More

"Lebanese-Americans for McCain"? Huh?

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, September 23 2008

The other day, I got an email from the McCain-Palin campaign urging me to sign up and get involved. "Take a Few Minutes to elect the McCain-Palin Ticket" it read. As it is my practice to join in all these efforts in ... Read More

MoveOn Gears Up for 2008

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, March 13 2008

MoveOn.org Political Action is hiring, looking for someone to work "on the development of cutting edge online organizing tools." The job description lays out an ambitious but not unrealistic plan for the giant e-group, ... Read More

Over the Horizon: User-Centered Online Politics?

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, February 12 2008

Esther Dyson argues that while Google and a host of start-ups are refining their ability to target advertising at consumers, the long-term news is in how web users are learning, through sites like Facebook, to control ... Read More

News Briefs

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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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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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