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First POST: Local Politics

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, January 2 2013

Internet industry politics

  • Leading the New York Times Technology section today: "Tech Giants, Learning the Ways of Washington, Brace for More Scrutiny" —

    In 2012, among other victories, the industry staved off calls for federal consumer privacy legislation and successfully pushed for a revamp of an obscure law that had placed strict privacy protections on Americans’ video rental records. It also helped achieve a stalemate on a proposed global effort to let Web users limit behavioral tracking online, using Do Not Track browser settings.

    But this year is likely to put that issue in the spotlight again, and bring intense negotiations between industry and consumer rights groups over whether and how to allow consumers to limit tracking.

    The short version: In 2012, Silicon Valley industry groups and major companies found allies among their users in hill fights against SOPA and for a bill that will allow Netflix to make users' viewing history social similar to how Spotify allows its users to share music. Separate from user-generated clout, however, Google, Facebook, and other giants invested hundreds of millions in their own lobbying and in bolstering their collective representation in Washington. In 2013, companies may well find themselves at odds with their users on issues related to privacy, data ownership, and data rights. It will be in those fights, as opposed to the unifying SOPA fight at this time last year, that we see what kind of political will exists among the various networks of people in American corners of the Internet.

Local control, local networks

  • One of the things that sparked techPresident's interest over the past year was the way outside groups on both the left and right were teaching data-driven campaigning practices to candidates in local races, like school boards. One of the other things we've been watching is the way cities are going online to find new, smaller, more flexible platforms to form public-private partnerships around small projects. So while there's no obvious technology angle, your First POST editor thinks it's worth your time to read this Salon piece by Josh Eidelson, highlighting efforts to "improve" education by moving control from publicly elected school boards to some form of mayoral control.

    The piece focuses on Bridgeport, Conn., where the Working Families Party — a labor-backed party centered in New York, where unique election law allows it to bring in additional votes for a candidate also running on the Democratic Party line rather than splitting the vote with a separate candidate — beat back a New York City-style effort to replace school boards with mayoral control:

    So why, in a year rife with setbacks, did progressives beat [charter-school advocate Michelle] Rhee in Bridgeport? Advocates credit years of coalition-building and weeks of door-to-door canvassing. “I think one lesson is that there are no shortcuts,” said Farrell. “You have to do the organizing.” But she said the victory also showed that “when we talk about it in terms of democracy … we get farther than the old frames we’ve been using.”

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