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First POST: The 113th Congress

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, January 3 2013

  • Biting the hand that feeds: Trade groups representing Google, Microsoft and Facebook applaud the inclusion of an R&D tax credit extension in the fiscal cliff deal, according to The Hill. Silicon Valley isn't the only sector to cash in on the fiscal cliff deal.

    Pandodaily's Sarah Lacy has ripped into Congress for its handling of the fiscal cliff debacle, taking the opportunity to reiterate Silicon Valley's disdain for Capitol Hill.

    "Tech pubs haven’t covered this much– unlike every other media outlet on the planet– so I’m no expert on what it all means and whether it’ll pass the House of Representatives and all that," she wrote.

    It did pass the House and was signed by the president — by autopen, natch. And it included provisions that make Silicon Valley's more politically aware corners less dubious of the cliff deal, if for equally dubious reasons.

  • Gun nuts: After the Lower Hudson Journal-News published the addresses of Westchester County, N.Y. gun owners in an interactive database, a debate flared up about privacy and data. It's the latest example of the growing disconnect between what people think is private and what has always been public, but only recently searchable. At Reuters, Jack Shafer weighs in:

    Exactly how publishing public-record data constitutes privacy invasion is a topic worthy of a Poynter Institute seminar. By its very definition, the public record is not private. Under New York state law, the information the Journal News obtained from Westchester and Rockland county authorities can be obtained by anybody who asks for it. And even though it will deflate the sails of the boycotters, their protest is futile. No law prevents individuals from making the same pistol permit request from the counties and posting their own maps if Gannett and the Journal News surrender and delete theirs. I’d wager that somebody has already scraped the data from the Journal News site and will repost it if the paper goes wobbly.

  • From the wonky-even-for-you-dept: On The Volokh Conspiracy, David R. Johnson and David G. Post have published a post suggesting that Facebook's recent move to end a mechanism for public comment on its terms of service and privacy policy is a chance to rethink how online terms of service should work.

  • Time Warner Cable will not carry Current TV after was announced that Al Gore's network was purchased by the Qatar-based, Qatar-state-owned Al Jazeera, and its spots on cable networks would be replaced by a new American version of the news network. Yahoo reports that neither Comcast or DirecTV, which also carry Current, have announced plans to drop the network.

  • White House photographer Pete Souza has released a "Year in Photos" photo set on Flickr. (Via Alex Fitzpatrick)

  • We're just now seeing a Dec. 27 op-ed from former special assistant to the president and now Harvard visiting professor Susan Crawford observing that partly due to the way Internet service providers are regulated, Americans pay more money for slower Internet access.

  • Open government guy, former New York State Senate and World Economic Forum staffer, and civic hacker Noel Hidalgo is now at work heading up Code for America's New York office. (No link)

  • What 1.5 million 311 service requests look like.

  • Proponents of the DATA Act, which would create a unified and machine-readable database of all federal spending, are gearing up in hopes of getting on the agenda for the 113th Congress, which convenes today for the first time.

  • East Bay Express carries an optimistic look at civic hacking and its potential for problem-ridden Oakland, Calif.

  • Probably the wrong account:

    Deleted from Rep. Jan Schakowski's (D-Ill.) Twitter account was a link to the "Computer Man" video.

  • Glenn Greenwald thinks Twitter's compliance with French law governing hate speech is a bad idea. Around this time last year, Twitter created a mechanism to deny access to Twitter posts in countries where they might be against the law. It was heralded at the time as a way to balance access to Twitter everywhere with censorship of certain speech — such as hate speech in much of Europe — in particular places.

  • The European Commission has launched an open data portal in public beta.

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.