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First POST: Angry News Feed

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, July 23 2014

Angry News Feed

  • Is Facebook News Feed making political conflict worse? Josh Klemons of Foreign Policy makes that provocative suggestion in a fascinating post that looks at how his feed seems to have changed as the Israel-Gaza conflict has worsened. Since the News Feed algorithm shows a user more of whatever they appear to engage with, someone who posts or comments frequently in defense of one side will be shown more content reinforcing that stance, leading to an impression of greater polarization, he worries, convincingly.

  • Related: Nathan Matias, a PhD student at the MIT Media Lab, has posted a terrific summary of a recent seminar given there by Christian Sandvig, Karrie Karaholios and Cedric Langbort on ways that researchers can audit the algorithms that subtly and quietly shape the user experience, with a focus on Facebook's News Feed.

  • Based on the first six months of the year, Facebook is on track to spend nearly $10 million on federal lobbying in 2014, close to double what it spent in 2013, reports Russ Choma for the Center for Responsive Politics. It's still #2 to Google in lobbying spending; the search giant is on track to spend $17 million at its current pace.

  • Situational ethics, Cuomo-style: This front-page New York Times investigation of how Governor Andrew Cuomo's office "hobbled" an independent blue-ribbon commission he set up to investigate political corruption should be manna from heaven for his Democratic challenger, Zephyr Teachout. She's called on him to resign, noting that "When a private indiscretion became public, Governor Eliot Spitzer quickly resigned from office. The Cuomo administration's indiscretions - public acts that violate the public trust - are far worse."

  • Speaking of political corruption, the good folks at LittleSis have unveiled Oligrapher, a new tool that makes it easier to visualize power relationships among elites.

  • Derek Willis reports on a nifty feat of Owen Mundy, an art professor who looks at the relationship between data and the public: he's mapped the locations of people's cats based on the publicly available location data that is embedded in the photos they post: the site is

  • Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) loves his LG flip-phone so much he's bought ten of them "in case they run out," he tells Zach Carter of the Huffington Post.

  • On TechRepublic, Alex Howard looks at the very mixed track record of social media platforms and government agencies when it comes to make their web services accessible to people with disabilities. One nugget of many: The FCC, which used to have a really lousy website, is now the first federal agency that provides a consumer support line for American Sign Language.

  • A forensic scientist and hacker says he has identified serious security weaknesses in Apple's iOS operating system, reports Sara Zaske for ZDNet.

  • OpenPlans Jon Tehrani decries the news that some Vermont municipalities are considering deactivating their websites in order to reduce the chance that they will violate the state's newly updated open meeting laws.

  • Want to help someone in Detroit who can't pay their water bill (the city is in the process of shutting off water delivery to tens of thousands of delinquent residents)? This site will match you directly to a Detroit resident and give you their Detroit Water & Sewerage Account number to make the payment.