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First POST: Databases

BY Miranda Neubauer | Wednesday, April 4 2012

The BlackBerry is still big in federal government despite newer smartphones. Photo: Honou

"YouTube for Good"

  • YouTube appears to be hiring a team that will be tasked with serving activists, nonprofits and other social-sector groups on the video service. From a recent job posting:

    The YouTube for good team is charged with increasing the ability to change the world through video by empowering our community. Our focus is currently on three key pillars: Nonprofits & NGOs: Accomplishing their goals of awareness, fundraising and community engagement. Education: Supporting teachers, parents and students of all ages to help YouTube become a global classroom. Activism & Free Expression: Maintain YouTube as a forum for change, protest and creativity.

    (via @awallenstein and @hunterwalk)

  • Don't Miss: Last Thursday, our Micah Sifry led a conference call with Planned Parenthood's Heather Holdridge and Share This! author Deanna Zandt, who launched a popular pro-Planned Parenthood tumblr during the nonprofit's public spat with Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The three discussed the aftermath of Komen's decision to pull funding for breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood and the public outcry against Komen as an example of how new networks on the web can organize for a cause. Exclusively for Personal Democracy Plus subscribers, the call archive is here — listen online or download the MP3 for the ride home.

  • Invisible Children has postponed the release of its new video until April 5, it announced on its Twitter account, MSNBC reported. The video was originally set to come out Tuesday. The Guardian reported how many of those displaced or affected by Kony's Lord's Resistance Army are unaware of the video, while children in the U.S. are speaking out and contacting members of Congress about the case.

  • The One Campaign has created a YouTube video featuring several actors promoting the beginning of the end of AIDS in 2015 and an online petition supporting the funding of AIDS programs. The video has collected over 17,300 views since March 28.

  • Obama campaign manager Jim Messina tweeted yesterday, "I just saw a sensational video that we are debuting tomorrow. @teddygoff and his team did a remarkable job. Stay tuned. #firedup"

  • Federal government officials are still heavy users of the Blackberry.

  • In an interview with The Verge, David Carr discussed how to keep track of the news that emanates from social media and the roles of the newspapers, Julian Assange and Bradley Manning.

Illinois launches state finance dashboard, updated daily

  • Illinois has launched a new online financial database called The Ledger that includes daily receipts, public salaries and recent additions to the payroll.

  • The Wall Street Journal reminded its staff not to engage in partisan activity, including on blogs or social networking sites.

  • The FAA is testing the implementation of satellite technology at several airports to replace radar, which could increase capacity and reduce circling over airports.

  • New York horse racing regulators announced they will create an online database of animal deaths and accidents from 2009 following several reports and investigations into horse injuries and fatalities.

  • A New York teacher's union has filed a lawsuit to obtain Department of Education e-mails regarding school closings.

  • States are increasingly passing laws that make it illegal to posses or install devices that falsify cash registers' electronic records, and enable cheating on taxes.

  • The A.P. detailed the panic faced by some Colorado residents during recent wildfires, made worse by wrongly routed emergency alert calls.

    The first wave of automated calls ordering residents to evacuate was sent at 5:05 p.m. but they went to the wrong list of phone numbers, [Sheriff spokesperson] Techmeyer said. "It was way too large geographically," he said, adding that he had no other details. "That was a user error on our end." That call was halted, and a new round of calls was started at 5:23 p.m., he said.The 911 recordings show that that initial bad round of notifications caused even more confusion in the dispatch center. Calls from people who wrongly got evacuation notices are mixed with more residents calling to report smoke and fire nearby. Dispatchers appear to become increasingly overwhelmed while fielding so many types of calls back-to-back.


  • More and more universities are working on attracting more women to programming classes, as many computer science professors say that all college graduates should understand software fundamentals.

  • ICYMI: a judge has clarified that he did not intend to suggest that bloggers can't be journalists.

  • The White House announced its first Code Sprint, encouraging developers to build job search applications using its Summer Jobs + API.

  • The number of Internet users living in countries that engage in systematic Internet filtering has grown from about 500 million in 2010 to over 620 million in 2012, according to the Open Net Initiative.

  • Researchers have developed a new tool that disguises communications over Tor as Skype video calls.

Watching the British surveillance fight

  • Outcry over British Internet surveillance proposals continued yesterday. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg promised there would be open hearings on the proposals and appeared to criticize the Home Office's handling of the issue. Earlier, the home secretary had told the Sun that any changes would apply to criminals, pedophiles, and terrorists, and that "ordinary people" had no reason for concern. In addition, Clegg also warned his fellow ministers against separate proposals for a new form of secret courts that had been criticized by a human rights committee.

  • Service alerts for the London Underground are now available on Google Maps.

  • Many cafes in Germany offering free wi-fi are facing cease-and-desist notices and threats of fines from copyright lawyers over supposed illegal downloads.

  • A group organized by an Austrian student who has been leading a campaign against Facebook's privacy policy said the social network had not met an agreed-upon deadline to make improvements. His group, Europe-versus-Facebook, is encouraging supporters to file complaints with the European Commission.

  • Australia has published a website that allows for the comparison of the country's 39 public universities based on faculty/staff ratios, employment outcomes, and more.

  • An Australian court ruled that Google was responsible for misleading ads run by its advertisers. Earlier in the U.S., the Federal Government announced how it would distribute $500 million that Google had to pay for illegally accepting advertisements from Canadian pharmacies.

  • The United States says it will work with international partners to establish a Syria Accountablity Clearinghouse to collect, analyze and document information about human rights abuses. The clearinghouse "will maintain secure virtual linkages with affiliated groups and organizations around the world, including in Syria," according to a press release.

  • A 24-year-old female graduate student at the American University in Cairo helps to run the English-language Twitter feed of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

  • A high-profile Muslim Brotherhood politician criticized the party's decision to run a presidential candidate in Egypt's elections on Facebook.

  • Unicef sought to call attention to the food crisis in the Sahel yesterday with a social media campaign #sahelnow that included a Facebook and Twitter message, and YouTube video, which seemed to have a comparatively low number of views only just under 1,500. The Sahel is a belt of land immediately south of Africa's Sahara desert.

  • Two Chinese microblogging services have reenabled the ability to comment on others' posts.

  • Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei has installed four live webcams in his home as a symbol of the 24 hour police surveillance he is under.

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.