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First POST: Inauguratomaton

BY Miranda Neubauer | Monday, January 7 2013

Politics on the Internet / politics of the Internet

  • From TechPresident on Friday, in a response to an Economist article on "Internet activism:" "The piece is worth a read, but the Economist has trouble sussing out two or three different forces at play when it comes to "Internet activism." The main focus of the article, and a new and interesting thing that's really worth noticing, is the way that people who are very much "of the Internet" have demonstrated a new political consciousness ...

    "A separate but related issue is the ongoing political fight for control of the Internet, or control over certain aspects of how the Internet works ... The third force is activism enabled by the Internet, which is not necessarily related to the previous two.

    To a certain extent, the work of the Pirate Party counts here, as does the work of Internet freedom advocates around the Stop Online Piracy Act at the start of this year. But having a global, instantaneous communications network that can also use software to help hundreds or thousands of people cooperate efficiently on a single task has absolutely changed the dynamics of politics."

    Your First POST editor unpacks "The three meanings of Internet activism" here.

Doing it wrong

Google the friendly giant?

  • "... [T]he analogy to the browser war of the Web’s early days was never the right one," write Bruce Brown from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Alan Davidson, a former Google director now at M.I.T.’s Technology and Policy Program, in a response to the Federal Trade Commission's decision not to pursue action against the search-engine giant. "It failed to capture the dangers free speech would have faced if regulators had agreed with Google’s critics."

    Brown and Davidson aren't the only ones rushing to Google's defense. In The New Republic, Tim Wu, he of "The Master Switch," piles on:

    The law-enforcing agencies of the federal government are powerful, and unlike a football team, aren’t supposed to try to win at any cost; they are supposed to do what is right for the country. The Commission was right to investigate Google, right to stop the practices it did, and also right to settle the case instead of beating the firm into submission. In the end, as corporate defendants go, Google was pretty clean. What saved the company weren't the millions Google wasted lobbying Senators or paying Republicans to be its friends. It was its engineers, who designed its services in a way that maximized effectiveness while avoiding rampant illegality.

    Regardless of the merit to either set of arguments, this press campaign highlights a peculiarity of the Internet/free speech/human rights sphere: The big companies that cause such concern because of how much information they have about Internet users also have a lot of friends among Internet freedom activists, in part because they profess a willingness to listen.

Around the web

  • Journalists from the Lower Hudson Journal-News, the newspaper that identified gun owners in an online map, have been targeted and threatened. As the controversy grew, LoHud's native Putnam County said it would refuse to release additional permit data. Nick Bilton wrote about the potential for technological measures that could make guns safer. The Daily Beast organized readers responses to question on gun ownership in an interactive.

  • Federal News Radio reports that a White House open data policy, called for in the Digital Government Strategy released last year, is about to be released.

  • Each year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's New York City releases a Mayor's Management Report: A comprehensive compendium of all the available metrics to evaluate how various city agencies performed that year against previous years, from graffiti removed to breakfasts served in city schools. The big knock on MMR until now has been that it was available only as a traditional report, without data in machine-readable form. TechPresident is just now seeing MMR data on the city's open data portal, from 2003 to the present.

  • Nate Silver will do a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" session.

  • Geek note: Former OfA developers on Twitter are talking about mosh, or "mobile shell," a command-line interface designed to deal gracefully with the vagaries of coding on the road or from a spotty wifi connection. Its first commit was in December 2010, and TechPresident has been hearing good things about it for a little over a year.

  • MoveOn sent out a petition started by Danny Glover calling for Obama to nominate Paul Krugman as treasury secretary.

  • NYPD officials said recently that they were looking at ways to identify potential mass shooters via the Internet before they take action.

  • Only three of the 79 new Members of Congress don't have Twitter accounts, according to Mashable.

  • Fast Company looked at the Library of Congress' effort to archive Tweets. Buzzfeed highlights the challenges the LOC faces in making the data accessible and usable.

  • Adam Popescu from ReadWriteWeb explains why a proposed law requiring telcos to archive text messages is a bad idea. The bill is now under consideration by the Senate.

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's office Photoshopped four members of Congress into a photo of new female representatives. They were late for the original shoot and edited in afterwards.

  • As it takes over cable channel Current, Al Jazeera plans to at least temporarily stop streaming Al Jazeera English online in an effort to appease cable companies.

  • The New York Times noted how regulatory uncertainty surrounding the JOBS Act is affecting the possibility for investment in crowdfunding ventures by small business.

  • Lawyers for Facebook appeared in a Portland courtroom last week in response to a request to turn over part of a conversation to a defense attorney in a murder case.

  • Derek Thompson from the Atlantic and the Wall Street Journal analyze what new funding for Buzzfeed and Andrew Sullivan's new blogging platform mean for journalism.

  • Slate critiqued how people identifying with Anonymous have inserted itself into a rape case in Steubenville, Ohio involving a high school footbal team.

  • The New York state comptroller has sued Qualcomm, one of the largest makers of computer chips for mobile devices, to demand the release of internal political expenditure records.

  • The NYPD quietly released an iPhone app that offers local crime statistics and its media notices.

  • Sarah Kaufman highlights social media recommendations for public transit providers gleaned from the Rudin Center's report on the subject.

  • The New York City MTA removed all references to its former head Joseph Lhota from its website as he left the post to run for mayor.

  • Staten Island residents reacted angrily to Google documenting areas damaged by Sandy for its Street View service.

  • New York City Chief Digital Officer Rachel Haot detailed for the Open Government Partnership how the city used social media and open data in its respone to Hurricane Sandy.

  • The Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which advocates locally owned Internet infrastructure, highlighted how Internet providers have been lobbying against efforts by cities to build their own networks.

  • The Virginia Coalition for Open Government evaluated how difficult it is to get budget information online for each of 134 counties and independent cities in Virginia.


  • Iran says it is developing software to control social networking sites.

  • The New York Times reports on uproar over censorship attempts at a Chinese newspaper where some journalists say editors loyal to the government took over the paper's microblog accounts.

  • Nicholas Kristof argues that China should focus on regulating access to narcotics and guns rather than access to information.

  • A Kuwaiti court sentenced a man to two years in prison for insulting the country's ruler on Twitter. A Bahraini activist was also arrested for Twitter posts about anti-government protests.

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel has no plans to tweet from a personal account even as the German national election campaign heats up. Her Social Democratic opponent does have his own account — but he has been making gaffe after gaffe: The New York Times noted that he had a binders-full-of-women-type moment when he suggested that Merkel was popular because she gets a "women's bonus," prompting the term "Frauenbonus" to trend on Twitter in Germany.

  • YouTube has reportedly been unblocked in Afghanistan. Pakistan had recently lifted, but then reinstated, a YouTube block.

  • The New York Times followed up on the Internet-fueled protest movement in Russia as it appears to have died down somewhat. "Mr. Terekhov, who watched his employees as last year’s protests surged and ebbed, says it is now clear that they took part because it was fashionable, nothing more. They felt strongly about the anti-Putin rallies, he said, but 'they also feel strong emotions about their iPhones.' ... 'Suddenly we — a huge number of Internet hamsters — we decided that we had had enough, we got together and we went out,' Ms. Fotchenko said, using a slang term for Moscow’s digitally connected youth. 'And then, whoops! We turned back into Internet hamsters, the leaders and all the rest of us. Because nothing happened.'"

  • Journalist Natalia Antelava details her Twitter and e-mail communications with Gulnara Karimova, daughter of authoritarian Uzbeki leader Islam Karimov.

  • A new study suggests that Hamas had more success with its social networking warfare than the IDF in the recent Gaza conflict.

  • Univision noted that the presidents of Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico are among the most followed heads of state on Twitter.

  • An association representing an Irish newspaper is facing a criticism after its subsidiary demanded that an anti-domestic violence charity pay 300 euros for displaying five links to newspapers on its website.

This post has been corrected. Putnam County, N.Y., not Westchester County, refuses to release additional gun ownership data.