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First POST: "We the People"

BY Miranda Neubauer | Wednesday, January 16 2013

Wednesday must-reads

  • At Aaron Swartz's funeral, his father said Swartz was "killed by the government," the Chicago Sun Times reported. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said he planned to investigate the Justice Department's prosecution of Swartz. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) announced on Reddit that she would introduce "Aaron's Law" to change the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Lofgren had earlier spoken with ars technica about the 2013 tech policy agenda. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also praised Swartz, as the Huffington Post noted. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) had expressed his sorrow about the news of Swartz's death on Twitter.

    Curious thing about Darrell Issa's outspokenness on Swartz's death: “Had he been a journalist and taken that same material that he gained from MIT, he would have been praised for it. It would have been like the Pentagon Papers,” Issa is quoted as saying. TechPresident escapee Nancy Scola observes:

    It's a particularly curious statement given that Issa was an original co-sponsor of the Research Works Act, which have limited federal agencies' abilities to require free public access to papers based on their funded work.

  • More commentary, reporting and analysis on the the legal case came from Kevin Cullen, Reuters, NPR, the Huffington Post and Ben Huh, who wrote that "The case against Aaron Swartz was like sending someone to jail for checking too many books out of the library." As Buzzfeed profiled prosecutor Carmen Ortiz, her husband criticized Swartz's family on Twitter. Daniel Lathrop from the Dallas Morning News posted the full court file of the Swartz case.

  • The New York Times and the Rockland County Times reported on how New York state's new gun law, signed yesterday, restricts public access to information about gun permits. New York Times Editorial Page Editor Andrew Rosenthal criticized the bill, saying it "also revokes automatic public access to gun permit records – a wild over-reaction to a Westchester newspaper’s decision to publish the names of all local holders of gun permits. Publishing those names seemed to have no legitimate journalistic purpose, but closing off public records is not the right response."

    Democratic Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti voted for the bill even though he had concerns about its First Amendment implications. The New York World undertook a deeper analysis of the Journal News' gun data.

  • Former Obama for America National Field Director Jeremy Bird and Battleground States Director Mitch Stewart have founded a new consulting firm called 270 strategies. Related: Democratic polling firms Anzalone Liszt Research and Grove have merged.

  • Pierre Omidyar has launched the Democracy Fund which will invest in "in social entrepreneurs working to ensure that our political system is responsive to the public and able to meet the greatest challenges facing our nation."

  • The White House is raising the signature limit on We the People petitions to 100,000 in 30 days, after already having once increased the threshold from 5,000 to 25,000.

  • has launched, a reorganized — and very slick-looking — window into the data published by the United States government.

  • Facebook unveiled its new Graph Search function yesterday, and noted as an example that it could help users find music liked by Obama or Romney supporters.

  • Philadelphia's new Director of Civic Technology Tim Wisniewski says his job is to work with outside developers to encourage the creation of new software based on city government data.

  • Also in Philly: PlanPhilly has launched a new web application called License to Inspect that tracks city property violations and construction permits among with other data.

  • For Personal Democracy Plus subscribers, Sam Roudman traces how the Boston Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics was able to repurpose a Chicago app that maps free vaccination locations within about a day.

  • A Honolulu Code for America fellow tells Next American City:

    I didn’t know anything about cities. [Laughs.] Before the fellowship, I might have thought about City Hall as this big, bureaucratic black hole of inefficiencies. And then when you go there, you realize that, my god, there are real people there with real challenges. A lot of people are trying to do the very best they can. It’s true that there are of course government workers who are just there for the job security. But a lot more than that are people are trying make things happen, and be helpful as best they can. It’s the system that what really needs to be shaken up in a big way.

Around the web


First POST has been corrected to fix a formatting error that wrongly implied a story about Democratic Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti was mentioned in a New York Times editorial.

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.


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.