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First POST: Fixing Elections

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, January 31 2013

Fix the vote

  • Following President Barack Obama's inaugural mention of electoral administration, House Democrats have introduced H.R. 12, the Voter Empowerment Act of 2013. Among other things, the bill would require states to provide online voter registration, clarifies voter ID requirements, sets standards for privacy — including a provision that victims of domestic violence, for example, might have their information retained by the state but withheld from view — and lays out guidelines to improve accuracy of the voter rolls.

    The bill has been referred to several House committees.

Chinese hackers get behind the paywall

  • The New York Times reports that people in China attempted to access its reporters' email addresses and gain other information from its computer networks:

    The timing of the attacks coincided with the reporting for a Times investigation, published online on Oct. 25, that found that the relatives of Wen Jiabao, China’s prime minister, had accumulated a fortune worth several billion dollars through business dealings.

Building towards reform?

  • Google and Twitter transparency reports released earlier this week expand a conversation about online privacy in a way that what's available from the government simply won't do, Miranda Neubauer writes:

    "The government is so secretive that the only way we can get this information is through the companies," [the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Trevor] Timm told techPresident.

    As a result, only companies like Google and Facebook are providing the kinds of information that watchdogs and members of Congress need when considering how to reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act — a law consistently invoked when defining online privacy despite the fact that it is 27 years old and predates the modern Internet.

    Companies like Facebook or cellphone carriers should release similar information, he said.

No honor among pirates?

Around the web

  • One of our favorite things at techPresident is the "Personal Explanations" tumblr, which documents when members of Congress ask that a change of their vote be noted in the Congressional Record as well as the sometimes absurd excuses given by members who miss a vote. Today Personal Explanations catches Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in action:

    As some Supreme Court Justice said sometime, sunlight keeps
    mold from happening, or something to that effect.

  • Nextgov's Joseph Marks writes: "Every federal agency’s information technology shop should include workers with expertise in social media, open government and cloud computing. That's according to new guidance from the federal Chief Information Officers Council."

  • And also looks at how Congress might get closer to a GitHub-ready version of the U.S. Code.

  • Look at this software suite for municipal councils to better manage legislation.

  • In Minnesota, a business-to-business online exchange to help distribute flu vaccines.

  • Mobile phones are proliferating in Africa, but when it comes to coverage, reception is still very spotty in rural areas, Reuters reports.

  • The British-made Raspberry Pi, a credit-card-sized, bare-bones computer available for $35, will be headed to UK schools to help kids learn programming and computer science thanks to support from Google. While your First POST editor uses a Raspberry Pi as a front end for his home media center, the tiny computer was always intended to be a cheap and easy starter kit for kids to learn computing from the ground up — to understand what technology is and what it can do, rather than only what a vendor allows it to do, and to think like a maker rather than a consumer.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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