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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.

  • NoFordNation.com, 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.

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

  • Not to be outwitted, the CIA is launching Airbmb.com, 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 wednesday >

In Mexico, A Wiki Makes Corporate Secrets Public

Earlier this year the Latin American NGO Poder launched Quién Es Quién Wiki (Who's Who Wiki), a corporate transparency project more than two years in the making. The hope is that the platform will be the foundation for a citizen-led movement demanding transparency and accountability from businesses in Mexico. Data from Quién Es Quién Wiki is already helping community activists mobilize against foreign companies preparing to mine the mountains of the Sierra Norte de Puebla.

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thursday >

NY Study Shows How Freedom of Information Can Inform Open Data

On New York State's open data portal, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation has around 40 data resources of varying sizes, such as maps of lakes and ponds and rivers, bird conservation areas and hiking trails. But those datasets do not include several data resources that are most sought after by many New York businesses, a new study from advocacy group Reinvent Albany has found. Welcome to a little-discussed corner of so-called "open government"--while agencies often pay lip service to the cause, the data they actually release is sometimes nowhere close to what is most wanted. GO

Responding to Ferguson, Activists Organize #NMOS14 Vigils Across America In Just 4 Days

This evening peaceful crowds will gather at more than 90 locations around the country to honor the victims of police brutality, most recently the unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on Saturday. A moment of silence will begin at 20 minutes past 7 p.m. (EST). The vigils are being organized almost entirely online by the writer and activist Feminista Jones (@FeministaJones), with help from others from around the country who have volunteered to coordinate a vigil in their communities. Organizing such a large event in only a few days is a challenge, but in addition to ironing out basic logistics, the National Moment of Silence (#NMOS14) organizers have had to deal with co-optation, misrepresentation, and Google Docs and Facebook pages that are, apparently, buckling under traffic.

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