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First POST: Sabotage

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, October 8 2013

Sabotage

  • Todd Park, the White House CTO, is in today's New York Times repeating his explanation about why HealthCare.gov crashed last week on launch day: the feature enabling people create user accounts at the start of the sign-up process: "At lower volumes, it would work fine. At higher volumes, it has problems." Chiming in, in defense of the project, Aneesh Chopra, Park's predecessor: “This is par for the course for large-scale I.T. projects. We wish we could launch bug free, but in reality that’s not that easy to do. The reality is that if you have a product that people want, people will tolerate glitches because they expect them.”

  • HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius in USA Today: "On the first day alone, HealthCare.gov had nearly eight times more concurrent users than Medicare's site (one of the federal government's most highly trafficked) during open enrollment peak levels." With engineers working nonstop to add capacity and upgrade software, she says ,"Wait times on HealthCare.gov are now 50% shorter."

  • Bloomberg.com columnist Megan McCardle says the health exchanges' problems aren't due to Republican sabotage, "it's a potentially good IT project undone by system design and deadlines chosen for political reasons, rather than feasibility."

In other news around the web:

  • Security expert Bruce Schneier has ten steps you can take to make your computer as secure as possible from surveillance. Start with an "air gap." (Hint: The only real solution is a change in government policy.)

  • Culture catches up to politics: Sunday's episode of The Good Wife, TV's most tech literate show, had several interrelated plot lines all exploring the NSA's newly revealed surveillance powers.

  • The New Yorker explains "How Lavabit Melted Down."

  • Ezra Klein's Wonkblog is trying to be Upworthy.

  • Over on Cathy O'Neill's Mathbabe blog, Nicholas Diakopoulos has a guest post called "Rage against the algorithms." If code is law, then the hidden internal assumptions of algorithms that regulate all kinds of online activities are secret law. Diakopolous, a Tow Fellow at Columbia University's School of Journalism, writes, "Given the challenges to employing transparency as a check on algorithmic power, a new and complementary alternative is emerging. I call it algorithmic accountability reporting."

  • A coalition of transparency organizations in the United Kingdom have written an open letter to PM David Cameron, pressing him to open up data about lobbying, corporate ownership, and recipients of government contracts.

  • Political scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler have released a study that shows that state legislators are less likely to make false statementswhen made aware of fact-checking sites like Politifact.

  • Here are 25 women who could serve on Twitter's board.

  • "Big Data, Social Media and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict"--Yours truly will be moderating a panel on that topic with Tal Harris of One Voice Israel, Samer Makhlouf of One Voice Palestine, and Gilad Lotan of Social Flow. This Weds night at 6pm at Purpose HQ. Details and RSVP here.

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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