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First POST: Tools

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, February 28 2014

Tools

  • The new installment of the Knight News Challenge is focused on strengthening the free and open Internet. $2.75 million will go to those with a good enough idea--the deadline for the first round of applications is March 18.

  • David Meyer reports for Gigaom on the rise of consumer-friendly privacy tools like Mailpile.

  • Trevor Timm of the Freedom of the Press Foundation explains why they're backing open source encryption tools. (Maybe Knight can send them a check?)

  • WTF? The Houston City Attorney has issued a cease and desist order against Uber, demanding that it stop "transmitting or aiding in the transmission of form e-mails to City officials." He adds, "the excessive number of e-mails has gone unabated, to the point that it has become harassing in nature and arguably unlawful." Needless to say, Uber isn't backing down. An editorial in the Houston Chronicle adds context and support.

  • Valleywag's Nitasha Tiku reports on how an enterprising freelance engineer took advantage of Google Maps' loose verification system to post fake numbers for the FBI and Secret Service, and then recorded real service calls to those agencies. He says he acted after repeated efforts to get Google to fix those flaws were ignored.

  • A group protesting the Citizens United ruling managed to secretly videotape their protest from inside the Supreme Court, where cameras are strictly not allowed, Adam Liptak of the New York Times reports.

  • A homeless person helping explain the value of a startup called HandUp moves an audience of techies to tears at the Launch conference.

  • In the movie "Her," the main character played by Joaquin Phoenix, works at a fictional company that writes personalized letters on behalf of busy people, sometimes even writing both sides of an ongoing relationship. In Wired, Evan Selinger profiles BroApp, a "clever relationship wingman" tool that sends "automated daily text messages" and promises "seamless relationship outsourcing." Selinger notes the app might be a parody, but it's awfully close to where things are going, he argues.

  • Fresh: Our Miranda Neubauer reportson the challenge of getting New York City's community boards to modernize their use of tech, and the ongoing work of local Code for America brigade BetaNYC.

  • Alec Ross reflects on Ukraine's future for CNN.com, noting that it is the top outsourcing destination in the region for information-technology services, but mourning that corruption and authoritarianism are stymying the country's nascent civic tech sector.

  • Leading Russian democracy activist and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny has been placed under house arrest for two months and forbidden from using the Internet or talking to the media.

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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