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First POST: Done In By Data

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, January 10 2014

Done In By Data

  • Trevor Timm of the Freedom of the Press Foundation skewers the chair and co-chair of the House Intelligence Committee for putting out a "fact-free" press release yesterday claiming that Edward Snowden's leaks "are likely to have lethal consequences for our troops." Says Timm, "We’ve seen this same scene over and over again in the past decade, and the results are always the same: the government serially exaggerates damage to national security in an attempt to make sure newsworthy stories are not published or to vilify whistleblowers."

  • National Journal's Dustin Volz reports on a meeting President Obama had yesterday with lawmakers to discuss possible legislative reforms of the NSA.

  • The first American phone company to issue a transparency report describing how often government authorities requested user data wasn't AT&T or Verizon Brian Fung reports for the Washington Post; it was progressive Credo Mobile.

  • The Harvard Business Review's Justin Fox has a fascinating interview with Fred Turner, the author of From Counterculture to Cyberculture, on "How Silicon Valley Became the Man." One snippet:

    Google treats its engineers extremely well, offers extremely flexible work spaces, has built essentially a culture of collaboration and creativity that looks very communal and very wonderful, even as around those engineers it has cafeteria workers who are making something very close to minimum wage, and often lack the ability to get proper health insurance. That’s the kind of old communal mindset right there, where you bring together a kind of elite, give them a shared mindset, all the resources they need to live in that mindset, and yet surround them with folks who are relatively impoverished, often racially different, certainly members of a different class. In that sense, the communes were already The Man. And we’ve inherited their legacy.

  • Disillusionist Evgeny Morozov has a new essay in the New Yorker that presses, with his usual style, on the contradictions in tech's latest cultural phenomenon, the "Maker" movement.

  • Bill Davidow explains in the Atlantic how Moore's Law has made mass surveillance cheap and easy.

  • Nancy Scola notes that Chris Christie was done in by data (or the lack thereof); that is, the non-existent "traffic study" that was the supposed excuse for the four-day snarl of traffic in Fort Lee was the thread that unraveled his aides' conspiracy.

  • Maya Wiley reports for The Nation on the success of Brooklyn's Red Hook Initiative's wi-fi mesh network, and argues that the city's new Mayor Bill de Blasio should make affordable high-speed Internet access a top priority in his efforts to reduce inequality city-wide.

  • Hitler's Mein Kampf was one of the most downloaded e-books of 2013 on iTunes.

  • The Chinese Communist Party has released an online game called "Beat Corruption."

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

Brazilian President Signs Internet Bill of Rights Into Law at NetMundial

Earlier today Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned Marco Civil, also called the Internet bill of rights, during the global Internet governance event, NetMundial, in Brazil.

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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.

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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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