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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.

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

Civic Hackers Call on de Blasio to Fill Technology Vacancies

New York City technology advocates on Wednesday called on the de Blasio administration to fill vacancies in top technology policy positions, expressing some frustration at the lack of a leadership team to implement a cohesive technology strategy for the city. GO

China's Porn Purge Has Only Just Begun, And Already Sina Is Stripped of Publication License

It seems that China is taking spring cleaning pretty seriously. On April 13 they launched their most recent online purge, “Cleaning the Web 2014,” which will run until November. The goal is to rid China's Internet of pornographic text, pictures, video, and ads in order to “create a healthy cyberspace.” More than 100 websites and thousands of social media accounts have already been closed, after less than a month. Today the official Xinhua news agency reported that the authorities have stripped the Internet giant Sina (of Sina Weibo, the popular microblogging site) of its online publication license. This crackdown on porn comes on the heels of a crackdown on “rumors.” Clearly, this spring cleaning isn't about pornography, it's about censorship and control.


wednesday >

Another Co-Opted Hashtag: #MustSeeIran

The Twitter hashtag #MustSeeIran was created to showcase Iran's architecture, landscapes, and would-be tourist destinations. It was then co-opted by activists to bring attention to human rights abuses and infringements. Now Twitter is home to two starkly different portraits of a country. GO

What Has the EU Ever Done For Us?: Countering Euroskepticism with Viral Videos and Monty Python

Ahead of the May 25 European Elections, the most intense campaigning may not be by the candidates or the political parties. Instead, some of the most passionate campaigns are more grassroots efforts focused on for a start stirring up the interest of the European electorate. GO

At NETmundial Brazil: Is "Multistakeholderism" Good for the Internet?

Today and tomorrow Brazil is hosting NETmundial, a global multi-stakeholder meeting on the future of Internet governance. GO

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.


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.