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First POST: Elements

BY Miranda Neubauer | Friday, March 30 2012


Seeing the Wind

  • On their shared site, visualization experts Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg are hosting an animated wind map with data from the National Digital Forecast Database showing "near-term forecasts" of wind in the United States. The forecasts are updated every hour, meaning the map is reflecting nearly real-time projections of wind speed in an art project that makes a point about the availability of wind power.

  • The Washington Post went looking for Romney super-fans and found some online.

    "Is anyone out there?" a user named Bob Riley wrote at in early March. A site administrator welcomed him. And then . . . nothing. For three weeks and two days, no other Romniacs answered his query.

  • Rick Santorum became a target on Twitter after a Reuters reporter tweeted a photo of him bowling and a comment he had made to a young man reaching for a pink bowling ball, according to the New York Times. “You’re not gonna use the pink ball. We’re not gonna let you do that. Not on camera,” he said. The LGBT rights group Human Rights Campaign released a statement calling the remark "ignorant."

  • The New York Times reported how several blogs, particularly the conservative leaning Daily Caller, have been posting information they say is from Trayvon Martin's social networking presence to paint him in a negative light. Earlier, Business Insider ran into trouble when it posted photos it claimed were of Martin that surfaced on a white-supremacist website, only to remove them later when at least one of them appeared to be definitely fake.

  • All Facebook looked at how the House Committee on Financial Services adapted to Facebook Timeline. Caleb Smith, director of new media for the Committee on Financial Services, told the site:

    In studying our analytics from past Facebook activity, we've consistently seen high levels of engagement from our followers when we present information in a more interactive way - like video, infographics and polls....We used Facebook posts to explain what the JOBS Act was all about as it was going through committee, and once it passed the House of Representatives with overwhelming support, we released a video reel highlighting the bipartisan nature of the bill. Now, it's already identified as a legislative milestone on our timeline.

'Four-Screen' Advertising

  • Google has released a web tool kit called "Four Screens to Victory" that it says is a guide for campaigns, candidates and their staff to use Google effectively for political goals. The central pitch? Google's selling the idea that advertising across "four screens" — television, computer, tablet and mobile — will yield better results than placing television ads alone.

  • Cyberattacks on enemy computer systems should require presidential authority, General Keith Alexander, the head of U.S. Cyber Command said, according to the Washington Post.

  • Online and night classes that go in-depth into computer programming are becoming more and more popular, the New York Times reported.

  • The U.S. government is offering to give wireless companies access to more spectrum in response to growing demand for services used on mobile devices.

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is offering a new online tool, "Ask CFPB", to explain financial terms and concepts.

  • More and more stores are adjusting their prices as consumers increasingly use the web and shopping-comparison apps to research their purchases.

  • The city of Boston plans to pay $170,000 to settle a lawsuit in a case where a man was arrested for recording the arrest of a teenager with his cell phone.

Around the World

  • The European Union has announced a proposal for a CyberCrime Center.

  • The British government is expected to announce that TV cameras will be allowed in courtrooms during the sentencing of criminal trials. As the Independent reported: Under the plans, cameras will only be allowed in court to record judges' summing-up at the end of trials, as well as the sentencing. Broadcasters will not be permitted to film other parts of a trial, such as barristers' opening and closing statements or the cross-examination of witnesses - preventing showboating by lawyers, defendants and witnesses. Nor will be cameras be present at the moment when juries deliver their verdict....[Government sources] said the Government was determined to stop trials becoming US-style television spectacles and to protect the identities of witnesses, victims and jury members.

  • A new party called the Online Party has formed in Austria, according to local reports, with an emphasis on citizen participation and direct democracy.

  • In the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Pirate Party and Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU Party have become involved in a sort of Internet war, ahead of elections scheduled for May. In the city of Ratingen, the local branch of the CDU had purchased several domain names with the term "pirate" in them, but they were then redirected to the CDU site. Supporters of the Pirate Party responded by hacking the CDU site with the message "Help, I'm a prisoner on a Christian-Democrat website."

  • Der Spiegel looks into the possibilities and challenges the Pirate Party faces in the future. One article cited commentary from the Financial Times Deutschland which said that the party would need to focus on more substance, and that "[If] the Pirate Party doesn't learn this soon, the group that aspires to become the Apple Computer of political parties will instead wind up as Nokia." Another questioned whether its "politics of Shitstorms" and emphasis on debate could backfire.

  • Around 100,000 French citizens living abroad in the U.K. received an e-mail from Nicolas Sarkozy praising his handling of racist and anti-Semitic killings in Toulouse.

  • An official website of the Taliban has set up an online question-and-answer section where readers can submit questions. Among the examples cited by AFP:

    "I post verses and hadiths (sayings of the Prophet Mohammed) on Facebook, and some people are telling me that it is not a good work, can it be called a jihad?" asked Awrangzib. Mujahid reassured him: "Jihad has different kinds, including jihad using pens. May God grant you success in your kind of jihad. I approve of your work to use the Internet for the purpose of Islam."

    AFP reports that a volunteer asked how to join the ranks of the insurgents.

    "'If you have a problem contacting the mujahideen," the service quotes a respondent as saying, "'please send me an email showing your region, God willing I will show you proper ways to contact them.'"

  • Kuwait has arrested a man for insulting the Prophet Mohammad on Twitter.

  • The Saudi religious police force says it is trying to improve its image. According to Reuters, "earlier this year, footage of religious police attacking a family outside a shopping mall in the capital, Riyadh, was posted on YouTube, registering more than 180,000 hits and generating much social media criticism of the force."

  • Mashable reported on how Ghana is using social media to encourage voter registration.

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.