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First POST: End-Arounds

BY Nick Judd | Friday, March 9 2012


  • Ethan Zuckerman, Global Voices co-founder and a researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, writes that Joseph Russell and Invisible Children have certainly raised awareness among millions who did not know about the Ugandan gunman Joseph Kony, whose Lord's Resistance Army is on the run and may be close to the end of a decades-long spree terrorizing villages in Central Africa with abductions, food raids, killings and mutilations. But Russell, says Zuckerman, has also imbued those people with a reductive understanding of the situation in Central Africa:

    What are the unintended consequences of the Invisible Children narrative? The main one is increased support for Yoweri Museveni, the dictatorial and kleptocratic leader of Uganda. Museveni is now on his fourth presidential term, the result of an election seen as rigged by EU observers. Museveni has asserted such tight control over dissenting political opinions that his opponents have been forced to protest his rule through a subtle and indirect means – walking to work to protest the dismal state of Uganda’s economy. Those protests have been violently suppressed.

    Invisible Children counters that the solution they advocate has been thoroughly researched and soberly presented — the video was a means of making that solution communicable to a wider audience. But the nonprofit has demonstrated an unprecedented level of reach for a message that by its own admission does not include all the facts, and not everyone agrees that this was an acceptable means to their ends. Mobile activism expert Katrin Verclas, for instance, is proposing that activists adopt an online code of ethics.

  • In a Haaretz op-ed, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Hudson Institute senior fellow Michael Horowitz and Freedom House trustee Mark Palmer argue, variously, that Israel should pressure the United States to step up implementation of firewall "circumvention technology" initiatives, to develop capacity for Iranians to escape the confines of a coming national Iranian internet (maybe "intranet" is a better term?); that the State Department has "thwarted" congressional efforts to foster Internet freedom by failing to spend; and that the Obama administration is sitting on its hands in this regard out of fear that stepping up these efforts would anger China, where dissidents recently found themselves able, for a time, to break out from behind the country's "Great Firewall" of censoring and filtering technology.

  • Facebook co-founder and Obama 2008 veteran Chris Hughes is purchasing a majority stake in The New Republic:

    His focus, he said in an interview in advance of the announcement, will be on distributing the magazine’s long-form journalism through tablet computers like the iPad. Though he does not intend to end the printed publication, “five to 10 years from now, if not sooner, the vast majority of The New Republic readers are likely to be reading it on a tablet,” he said.

    Mr. Hughes, 28, will become publisher and the editor in chief of the magazine, and Richard Just will remain the editor. Martin Peretz, who was editor in chief from 1975 until 2010, when his title was changed to editor in chief emeritus, will become a member of the magazine’s advisory board.

  • Former White House Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra told Nextgov he thinks the debate over "cloud computing" is done. Now, he says, the focus should be on integrating Internet-powered social applications into the daily business of government: On creating a world where people trade information with government about service delivery online, like reporting it when a snowplow has missed a street.

  • Notable

  • The Occupy Movement has its very own video game: Keep Me Occupied, on an arcade-style console they're calling the OAK-U-TRON 201X. Created by designers Alex Kerfoot, Anna Anthropy, and Mars Jokela, the game requires at least two players to cooperate and flip switches as they ascend a tower. The game allows for players to build off of the switches flipped by previous players, so they can build off of previous plays.

  • In California, a dispute is brewing over whether to put financial disclosures from judges on the Internet:

    The option to redact sensitive information is available to all officials under current law and, according to the FPPC memo, the case-by-case requests "to redact home addresses for private individuals including both family and friends have been granted liberally" in the past.

    But the California Judges Association, which represents about 2,500 judicial officials, says it is still opposed to posting the forms, which can include addresses of properties owned by the official, a spouse's place of business and gifts the official received. They are petitioning to keep the forms offline, where they can still be requested as public records.

  • After a successful takedown of Megaupload, film studios have set their sights on a new site, Hotfile. In the filings for the motion for summary judgment against the site, the film studios argue that Hotfile’s business model is “identical” to Megaupload's.

  • The BBC is launching an online corrections page.

  • The CUNY Center for Urban Research has launched an online map comparing current New York electoral district lines with proposed redistricting lines coming out of a process that has moved to the courts. The site allows you to compare the maps side-by-side and offers a number of data visualizations.

  • The Department of Labor has awarded San Francisco $5 million to implement a workforce development program for its IT sector. Job training will be provided to approximately 1,830 residents. The city previously worked with private entities and nonprofits to design training programs.

With Raphael Majma
This post has been corrected to fix a typo.

News Briefs

RSS Feed tuesday > Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like 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 is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and And strangely enough, seems to want its early users to ask 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.


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.


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.


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.