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First POST: Vitam Et Bello

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, February 5 2014

Vitam Et Bello

  • According to NBC News, a secret division of GCHQ (Britain's NSA) has launched distributed denial of service attacks against chat rooms used by members of Anonymous.

  • McGill professor Gabriella Coleman writes in Wired that this news raises serious concerns:

    There are clearly defined laws and processes that a democratic government is supposed to follow. Yet here, the British government is apparently throwing out due process and essentially proceeding straight to the punishment — using a method that is considered illegal and punishable by years in prison. Even if DDoS attacks would do more damage upstream (than to IRC), it’s a surprising revelation.
    The real concern here is a shotgun approach to justice that sprays its punishment over thousands of people who are engaged in their democratic right to protest simply because a small handful of people committed digital vandalism. This is the kind of overreaction that usually occurs when a government is trying to squash dissent; it’s not unlike what happens in other, more oppressive countries.

  • German media is reporting that before Angela Merkel, Chancellor Gerhard Schroder's phone was also tapped by the NSA.

  • Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, claimed that journalist Glenn Greenwald was "selling his access" to Edward Snowden's leaked documents "for personal gain." He added, " a thief selling stolen material is a thief." Funny, we thought that when a journalist sells a story based on leaked government documents that was called journalism.

  • Web pioneer Andy Carvin is joining Pierre Omidyar's First Look Media.

  • The Republican National Committee has launched an in-house tech incubator called Para Bellum Labs, the Wall Street Journal's Patrick O'Connor reports. Para Bellum is Latin for "prepare for war." Here's aYouTube video from the RNC promoting the project.

  • In preparation for Open Data Day (Feb 22), the Open Knowledge Foundation is running a local open data census.

  • Hailing $750 million in commitments from Apple, AT&T, Autodesk, Microsoft, O’Reilly Media, Sprint and Verizon to public schools, President Obama said that, “In a country where we expect free WiFi with our coffee, we should definitely demand it in our schools."

  • Gregory Ferenstein of TechCrunch reports that normally voluble open government advocates at the White House aren't talking about why the Obama administration is pushing to gut the DATA Act, which would improve federal spending transparency.

  • Has Facebook "changed the way we govern"? That's the claim made by Hayley Tsukayama in the Washington Post.

  • The Syrian opposition is disappearing from Facebook, Michael Pizzi reports for the Atlantic. Their pages are being removed by the company for posting graphic imagery or calls to violence, he says. A Syrian human rights activist who wrote Facebook asking the company to make an exception for groups that are trying to document the conflict didn't get a response, Pizzi adds.

  • Feminist hackerspaces are on the rise, reports Liz Henry for Model View Culture.

  • Crisis Text Line, the brainchild of Nancy Lublin, gets the front-page of the New York Times today.

  • This Philadelphia web designer stopped charging for his services a few years ago, working solely in the "gift economy."

News Briefs

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The New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications plans to publish more than double the amount of datasets this year than it published to the portal last year, new Commissioner Anne Roest wrote last week in an annual report mandated by the city's open data law, with 135 datasets scheduled to be released this year, and almost 100 more to come in 2015. But as preparations are underway for City Council open data oversight hearings in the fall, what matters more to advocates than the absolute number of the datasets is their quality. GO

Civic Tech and Engagement: Announcing a New Series on What Makes it "Thick"

Announcing a new series of feature articles that we will be publishing over the next several months, thanks to the support of the Rita Allen Foundation. Our focus is on digitally-enabled civic engagement, and in particular, how and under what conditions "thick" digital civic engagement occurs. What we're after is answers to this question: When does a tech tool or platform enable actual people to make ongoing and significant contributions to each other, to a place or cause, at a scale that produces demonstrable change? GO

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