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First POST: Slippery Slopes

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, April 1 2014

Slippery Slopes

  • The as-yet unreleased Senate Intelligence Committee report into the CIA's interrogation program--which is at the center of a still-unresolved battle royal over allegations that the agency snooped on computers being used by Senate staff conducting the investigation--finds a "long-standing pattern" of the agency lying to both the Justice Department about the value and efficacy of its use of torture on CIA detainees, report Greg Miller, Adam Goldman and Ellen Nakashima for the Washington Post.

  • "It's Not a Crime When the Govt Does It, Dept.": Glenn Greenwald excoriates the NSA's top brass for revealing to the Los Angeles Times that the agency has been collecting and analyzing "every Iraqi email, text message, and phone-location signal in real time" while simultaneously condemning whistleblowers like Edward Snowden for similar disclosures.

  • Today's must-read: Writing in the New Yorker, Paul Ford explains why we need decentralized, mesh networks for communication--not just to route around would-be dictators trying to shut off the public Internet. "The infrastructure of the Web may turn out to be the perfect, inexpensive tool for the right kind of demagogue, rather than a network that demagogues switch off to stifle dissent," he notes sagely.

  • Nick Bilton reports for the New York Times that the online dating site OkCupid has posted an open letter to users who visit the site using Mozilla's Firefox browser, expressing its outrage at newly-hired Mozilla Corporation CEO Brendan Eich's opposition to equal rights for gay couples. The letter appears as OKCupid's landing page for Firefox users and reads, in part:

    Politics is normally not the business of a website, and we all know there’s a lot more wrong with the world than misguided CEOs. So you might wonder why we’re asserting ourselves today. This is why: we’ve devoted the last ten years to bringing people—all people—together. If individuals like Mr. Eich had their way, then roughly 8% of the relationships we’ve worked so hard to bring about would be illegal. Equality for gay relationships is personally important to many of us here at OkCupid. But it’s professionally important to the entire company. OkCupid is for creating love. Those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame, and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure.

    OkCupid's letter does include a link for its Firefox users at the bottom of the page, but urges them to consider using different browsers instead.

  • This tactic opens all kinds of complicated questions. Should OkCupid interrupt visitors who come to its site via Facebook and tell them that Mark Zuckerberg has funded political ads in support of politicians who happen to oppose marriage equality? Or go further: should the AFL-CIO interrupt its home page with a message to Safari users criticizing Apple for shipping jobs to China? Should Firefox stop would-be visitors to anti-gay or racist websites?

  • Eich's blog post on the controversy expresses his "sorrow at having caused pain" and affirms his commitment "to fostering equality and welcome for LGBT individuals at Mozilla."

  • Erin Kissane, the editor of Source and director of content for Knight-Mozilla's OpenNews partnership, writes a soul-searching post about Eich's hiring. Read the whole thing.

  • (Correction: in past posts about this controversy, I had incorrectly referred to Eich as CEO of the Mozilla Foundation. The corporation is a subsidiary of the foundation.)

  • Susan Crawford explains to Ezra Klein why high-speed Internet should be in every home at an affordable price, calling for a "public option" to ensure it.

  • Macon Phillips, who moved from directing the White House new media program to the State Department, is getting reinforcements, reports Zeke Miller for Time. He's being joined by Tom Cochran, Atlantic Media's CTO.

  • Andrew Kaczynski of Buzzfeed discovers that an old website belonging to North Carolina Republican Senate candidate Greg Bannon has been scrubbed from the Internet Archive, apparently at Bannon's request.

  •, an anti-Rob Ford group, is running some hilarious but fake candidate ads in Toronto, which holds new mayoral elections next October.

  • Alex Leavitt goes deep on how Reddit users and moderators use the site for posting and parsing live news coverage, using the recent LA earthquake and Hurricane Sandy as examples.

  • The FCC's decision to open up a bit more spectrum should make WiFi faster, Brendan Sasso writes for National Journal.

  • Code for America's Jack Madans announces the group's Peer Network for government professionals has recruited a "brain trust" of eighteen experts as trusted advisors--eleven men and seven women--who hail from different parts of the CfA community.

  • A video of a police shooting of a mentally ill homeless man + social media + Anonymous + a history of police violence = violent protests in the streets of Albuquerque, NM, Jennifer Preston reports for The New York Times.

  • The Chamber of Commerce is expanding its efforts to woo Silicon Valley firms, Jonathan Krim reports for the Wall Street Journal.

  • President Bill Clinton appears to be testing the new iPhone8.

  • launches, lets you rent our your work desk while you're not using it.

  • Not to be outwitted, the CIA is launching, which lets other nations rent a Predator drone on a timeshare basis.

  • Echoditto has been acquired by Facebook for $1billion in case plus $2 billion in Bitcoin, writes project manager Leif Nordberg.. Yeah, right. You had me until you mentioned the Bitcoin.

  • Gov.ify will make your machine-friendly text into government-ready PDFs. (h/t @digiphile)

News Briefs

RSS Feed thursday >

NYC Open Data Advocates Focus on Quality And Value Over Quantity

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

monday >

Tweets2Rue Helps Homeless to Help Themselves Through Twitter

While most solutions to homelessness focus on addressing physical needs -- a roof over the head and food to eat -- one initiative in France known as Tweets2Rue knows that for the homeless, a house is still not a home, so to speak: the homeless are often entrenched in a viscous cycle of social isolation that keeps them invisible and powerless. GO

Oakland's Sudo Mesh Looks to Counter Censorship and Digital Divide With a Mesh Network

In Oakland, a city with deep roots in radical activism and a growing tech scene at odds with the hyper-capital-driven Silicon Valley, those at the Sudo Room hackerspace believe that the solution to a wide range of problems, from censorship to the digital divide, is a mesh net, a type of decentralized network that is resilient to censorship and disruption and can also bring connectivity to poor communities.