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First POST: Super Tuesday and Targeting

BY Miranda Neubauer | Wednesday, March 7 2012

When your computer starts up, the first thing it does is a power-on self test: A quick diagnostic check to make sure everything's working before it loads up so you can get started. First POST is a check of news about technology in politics from around the web — a thorough once-over to start your day.


  • In a series of blog posts yesterday, Twitter followed the Super Tuesday results, tracking which candidates were getting buzz as vote tallies came in. Company staffers found that Twitter users' activity closely followed results coming through on TV — so as polls began to show a strong performance for Rick Santorum that as of Wednesday morning appeared nearly but not quite enough to win in Ohio, and victories in several states for Mitt Romney, so too did Santorum begin to accumulate social media buzz.

  • ProPublica undertook a close examination of how the Obama campaign tailors its e-mail solicitations to different audiences based on a sample of 190 recipients, allowing readers to compare the different e-mails:

    Last Thursday, President Obama's re-election campaign sent out an email blast to supporters.... Responding to a call on Twitter from [Dan] Sinker (and another from us), 190 people from 31 states and Washington, D.C., sent us the messages they received. A look at those emails shows the campaign sent out at least six versions of the fundraising appeal. The reasons for the differences remain unclear. (The campaign hasn't responded to our requests for comment.) The campaign could be testing to see which phrasing gets the best response. The messages also may be tailored to individual voters based on the campaign's extensive database of personal information.

    Obama staffers gave us a glimpse of this late last month during a Social Media Week sit-down with techPresident publisher Andrew Rasiej: They do indeed send different emails to different list segments, Digital Director Teddy Goff told us — and during a presentation, showed a photo of a whiteboard he said had been used to illustrate the breakdown of which version of an email was going out to each of several list segments. That talk is archived here.

  • Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) posted the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, the controversial international treaty on copyright enforcement, to his Keep the Web Open site. The site uses Madison, a web platform for community markup of legislation, that was built at his request. Issa is asking for public comments and suggestions for changes to the language. Issa is also hosting an IAMA session on Reddit today at 10 a.m.

    Issa is hoping to stir the pot on this agreement although there's no clear outlet for dissent. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) observed in a letter last October to the U.S. Trade Representative that the administration considers ACTA to be a sole executive agreement, which can be put into force without congressional approval. The trade representative told Wyden in a letter that ACTA as signed by the U.S. in October would require no new legislation to enact and is in keeping with U.S. law — meaning no congressional action would be needed for it to be put into force. Over the course of negotiations on the treaty, which has been in the works since around 2008, many of the provisions that open-web advocates found disturbing were removed. In Europe, however, aptly timed citizen dissent has motivated officials to refer the trade agreement to the European Union's judiciary and host more public hearings, like a March 1 workshop by the European Parliament's trade committee — at which intellectual property experts and open-Internet activists are arguing that the treaty is still too vague, too broad, and too potentially harmful.

    No one has announced ratification of ACTA so far, although it has 31 signatories, including the European Union and the United States.

  • Reuters reported on how personal stories have influenced the debate over same-sex marriage:

    During an emotional debate on the floor of the Washington state House of Representatives in early February, Republican Maureen Walsh spoke of being frustrated that her lesbian daughter could not legally marry her girlfriend. "She's met the person that she loves very much and someday, by God, I want to throw a wedding for that kid," Walsh told her fellow legislators on the floor of the House. "I hope she won't feel like a second-class citizen." Video of Walsh's speech went viral on the Internet, scoring millions of views on YouTube, after George Takei, an outspoken gay rights activist famous for his role as Mr. Sulu on "Star Trek," posted it on his Facebook page. Walsh then began receiving an outpouring of international support, with phone calls and text messages from Lebanon, Turkey, Sweden, Iceland, Japan, Germany and more.

  • Notable national news

  • Brent Bozell, the president and founder of the conservative Media Research Center, has launched a website in support of Rush Limbaugh,"Let's all agree Rush crossed a line. He agrees. He has also apologized profusely, but the left won't accept an apology," he says in a video on the site. According to Think Progress, 32 companies, collected on Pinterest, have pulled their ads from Limbaugh's radio show.

  • At a fund-raising event President Obama noted that he had more Twitter followers than Parks and Recreation actor Aziz Ansari, who was at the event. Obama said his daughter Malia was a fan of the show.

  • Twitter is still suggesting that users follow the late Andrew Breitbart.

  • The location-based discovery and advertising service Where released a new political donation tool, which lets people make donations to political campaigns from a mobile ad unit, which are delivered when a user enters a predetermined geographic area.

  • The Human Rights Campaign has created an interactive "Mitt 'n Match" game to illustrate that Mitt Romney has changed "his positions on LGBT equality more often than he changes clothes."

  • Massachusetts U.S. Senator Scott Brown has asked a political action committee supporting him to remove an online ad run on his behalf and has promised to pay money to charity as per his pledge with opponent Elizabeth Warren against third-party ads. The two candidates have asked supporters to keep money from outside groups like super PACs out of the race, and pledged to donate to charity for every ad dollar spent on their behalf by an outside group — in this way, "supporters" who spend on a candidate's behalf are actually punishing the candidate, in theory, by taking some of the campaign's finite amount of cash out of circulation through an at least nominally uncoordinated action.

  • A proposed Massachusetts shield law would also protect bloggers.

  • The New York World conducted an exit interview with Sarah Kaufman, the former projects coordinator for intelligent and emerging transportation systems at New York City Transit. She discussed what it takes for an organization like the MTA to embrace open government ideas.

  • Alt weeklies have launched a sort of wire service of their own to share stories, video and photography, and license content to outside news organizations.

  • Around the world

  • Israeli President Shimon Peres dropped by Facebook’s headquarters to meet with Mark Zuckerberg and launch his own page. He hopes his page will allow for conversations with Arabs abroad whose countries have no diplomatic ties to Israel. Peres also took part in a streamed live interview with Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, where he took a number of questions, including one on Iran’s nuclear program.

  • A German court ruled that some of Facebook's terms of service concerning the usage of content are invalid, and also ruled that Facebook must provide more information to users about how it uploads e-mail addresses of non-friends to send friend requests.

  • The Austrian police force has begun asking citizens for clues in criminal investigations on Facebook, according to local reports.

  • BT and Talk Talk, two British Internet Service Providers, lost their latest appeal against the Digital Economy Act. The Act, which was passed in 2010, allows rights holders to inform ISPs of an account that is believed to be downloading material illegally. The act is currently the topic of controversy because a possible consequence of continued illegal downloading is suspension of the account. Talk Talk is said to still be considering further action.

  • Canada's election authority has asked PayPal for records as it investigates robocalls in the 2011 election.

  • Users of the Chinese social networking site Weibo are speaking out against the Communist Party's official celebration of a national hero.

    But the party's efforts to resuscitate the spirit of Lei Feng on the 50th anniversary of his death have exposed the limits of old school propaganda in the age of the Internet ... If the maelstrom of ridicule seems particularly intense this year, it might be because Weibo users ... realize the days of unfettered, anonymous criticism may be drawing to a close. Beginning on March 16, new government regulations will require real-name registration. Another rule will require Sina Weibo to review the posts of those who have more than 100,000 followers. Those "harmful" to national interests, according to the rules, must be summarily deleted within five minutes.

With Raphael Majma and Nick Judd

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

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.


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.


The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.


tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.


Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.


monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.


friday >

In Google Hangout, NYC Mayor de Blasio Talks Tech and Outer Borough Potential

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio followed the lead of President Obama and New York City Council member Ben Kallos Friday by participating in a Google Hangout to help mark his first 100 days in office, in which the conversation focused on expanding access to technology opportunities through education and ensuring that the needs of the so-called "outer boroughs" aren't overlooked. GO

thursday >

In Pakistan, A Hypocritical Gov't Ignores Calls To End YouTube Ban

YouTube has been blocked in Pakistan by executive order since September 2012, after the “blasphemous” video Innocence of Muslims started riots in the Middle East. Since then, civil society organizations and Internet rights advocacy groups like Bolo Bhi and Bytes for All have been working to lift the ban. Last August the return of YouTube seemed imminent—the then-new IT Minister Anusha Rehman spoke optimistically and her party, which had won the majority a few months before, was said to be “seriously contemplating” ending the ban. And yet since then, Rehman and her party, the conservative Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), have done everything in their power to maintain the status quo.


The #NotABugSplat Campaign Aims to Give Drone Operators Pause Before They Strike

In the #NotABugSplat campaign that launched this week, a group of American, French and Pakistani artists sought to raise awareness of the effects of drone strikes by placing a field-sized image of a young girl, orphaned when a drone strike killed her family, in a heavily targeted region of Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. Its giant size is visible to those who operate drone strikes as well as in satellite imagery. GO

Boston and Cambridge Move Towards More Open Data

The Boston City Council is now considering an ordinance which would require Boston city agencies and departments to make government data available online using open standards. Boston City Councilor At Large Michelle Wu, who introduced the legislation Wednesday, officially announced her proposal Monday, the same day Boston Mayor Martin Walsh issued an executive order establishing an open data policy under which all city departments are directed to publish appropriate data sets under established accessibility, API and format standards. GO