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First POST: Inclemency

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, January 3 2014

Inclemency

  • The New York Times editorial calling for clemency for Edward Snowden continues to make waves, with Buzzfeed reporting on the news that several Members of Congress have said they are open to its conclusion, Firedoglake blogger Kevin Gosztola asking why the paper hasn't applied the same whistleblower label to Chelsea Manning, and former NSA director Michael Hayden telling the Daily Beast that clemency for Snowden would be "outrageous."

  • Matthew Keys rounds up responses from Microsoft, Apple, Cisco, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and other tech companies whose services and products were reportedly (per Der Spiegel) compromised by the NSA.

  • Glenn Greenwald thinks most tech companies were hypocritical, telling Salon's Natasha Lennard that they were "completely content to cooperate with the NSA, far beyond what the law required," until the extent of the NSA's activities became public.

  • Bob Swartz, Aaron's father, can't walk through MIT without feeling that the university "betrayed his son," Janelle Nanos writes in a moving portrait for Boston Magazine. “I see Aaron on every corner,” he says. “I pass by the building. I see MIT police. I remember, I remember him…” he sighs. “We spent a lot of time here. There are all sorts of painful aspects of what happened. They come back.”

  • Alexis Madrigal's deconstruction of Netflix's internal tagging system for movies is a must-read (as are some of the reader comments trying to explain the "Perry Mason" effect). One wonders, if Netflix's data about its users' predilections can be used to help it fine-tune what movies or series it should make, could a similar data set about voters and their preferences in politicians tell a political party what kind of candidates it should recruit?

  • Ravi Somaiya reports for the New York Times that Ezra Klein, the multimedia policy maven, is exploring taking his Wonkblog site independent after his proposal to expand it to a more general explanatory journalism site was rejected by the Post's publisher Katharine Weymouth and owner Jeff Bezos.

  • NY's Gothamist reports that students across the city peppered Dante de Blasio's Facebook page with requests that he convince his dad, the new mayor, to declare a rare snow day for the city's public schools.

News Briefs

RSS Feed tuesday >

Ruck.us Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like Democracy.com

Ruck.us launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new Ruck.us is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and Democracy.com. And strangely enough, Ruck.us seems to want its early users to ask Democracy.com for help. GO

Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.

GO

monday >

The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.

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The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.

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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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