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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 >

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.


friday >

In Google Hangout, NYC Mayor de Blasio Talks Tech and Outer Borough Potential

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio followed the lead of President Obama and New York City Council member Ben Kallos Friday by participating in a Google Hangout to help mark his first 100 days in office, in which the conversation focused on expanding access to technology opportunities through education and ensuring that the needs of the so-called "outer boroughs" aren't overlooked. GO

thursday >

In Pakistan, A Hypocritical Gov't Ignores Calls To End YouTube Ban

YouTube has been blocked in Pakistan by executive order since September 2012, after the “blasphemous” video Innocence of Muslims started riots in the Middle East. Since then, civil society organizations and Internet rights advocacy groups like Bolo Bhi and Bytes for All have been working to lift the ban. Last August the return of YouTube seemed imminent—the then-new IT Minister Anusha Rehman spoke optimistically and her party, which had won the majority a few months before, was said to be “seriously contemplating” ending the ban. And yet since then, Rehman and her party, the conservative Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), have done everything in their power to maintain the status quo.


The #NotABugSplat Campaign Aims to Give Drone Operators Pause Before They Strike

In the #NotABugSplat campaign that launched this week, a group of American, French and Pakistani artists sought to raise awareness of the effects of drone strikes by placing a field-sized image of a young girl, orphaned when a drone strike killed her family, in a heavily targeted region of Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. Its giant size is visible to those who operate drone strikes as well as in satellite imagery. GO

Boston and Cambridge Move Towards More Open Data

The Boston City Council is now considering an ordinance which would require Boston city agencies and departments to make government data available online using open standards. Boston City Councilor At Large Michelle Wu, who introduced the legislation Wednesday, officially announced her proposal Monday, the same day Boston Mayor Martin Walsh issued an executive order establishing an open data policy under which all city departments are directed to publish appropriate data sets under established accessibility, API and format standards. GO

YouTube Still Blocked In Turkey, Even After Courts Rule It Violates Human Rights, Infringes on Free Speech

Reuters reports that even after a Turkish court ruled to lift the ban on YouTube, Turkey's telecommunications companies continue to block the video sharing site.