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First POST: Differentiation

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, August 6 2014


  • Building on their prior story about the US government's known or suspected terrorist watch list, The Intercept's Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux report that 280,000 of the 680,000 on that list are "described by the government as having 'no recognized terrorist group affiliation.'" They also note that the no-fly list has grown ten-fold, to 47,000, under President Obama. There were 16 people on that list in 2001.

  • Interestingly enough, one of Scahill and Devereauz's sources, "a US counter-terrorism official familiar with watchlisting data" says that a report by the AP last month that put the full list at 1.5 million names was inaccurate.

  • Based on the documents in the Intercept story, which includes material from the National Counterterrorism Center dated August 2013, after Edward Snowden left the US, the government has concluded that there is a new leaker sharing secret documents with the press, CNN's Evan Perez reports.

  • Backstory: The Huffington Post's Ryan Grim reports on how the National Counterterrorism Center gave a heads-up to an Associated Press reporter before the Intercept's story was posted (resulting in a much less critical and thinner story), leading Intercept editor John Cook to tell the NCC that in the future he would only give the agency 30 minutes to respond before publishing.

  • Time to change your passwords? A Russian crime ring has built a cache of 1.2 billion username and password combinations and more than 500 million email addresses, Nicole Perlroth and David Gelles report for the New York Times.

  • Forbes' Kashmir Hill points out that Hold Security, the security firm that discovered the Russian caper and gave the story to the Times, concurrently put up a page on its website offering a $120/year service enabling users to find out if they were affected. She writes, "This is a pretty direct link between a panic and a pay-out for a security firm. Yes, I expect security firms to make money for making the Internet more secure, but I am skeptical of a firm with a financial incentive in creating a panic to be the main source for a story that causes a panic."

  • ICYMI: "The Day Obama's Facebook Page Went Down, and Other Campaign Security Lessons from 2012", by our Sonia Roubini.

  • Max Schrems, an Austrian privacy activist who is pursuing a class action claim against Facebook for violating its users' privacy, has garnered more than 17,000 co-petitioners in just one week, Reuters reports.

  • Wikipedia issues its first-ever transparency report.

  • Asked yesterday about net neutrality during an African leaders summit in Washington, President Obama seemed to take a stance at odds with the current proposal of his FCC chairman, who he put into that position, reports Brian Fung for the Washington Post. He said, in party, "One of the issues around net neutrality is whether you are creating different rates or charges for different content providers….I personally, the position of my administration, as well as a lot of the companies here, is that you don’t want to start getting a differentiation in how accessible the Internet is to different users."

  • Related: The FCC has posted all 1.1 million comments that it received on the Open Internet proceeding; that's 1.4 GB of data.

  • The New York Times editorial board, led by Andrew Rosenthal, does a Reddit AMA focused on its recent editorial series calling for end of the federal marijuana ban, which resulted in, among other things, this interchange: Snoop Lion (aka Snoop Dogg): "whats wrong wit a lil wake n bake??" Rosenthal: "Absolutely nothing wrong with it. Please, come visit the Times editorial board soon, but we have a no-smoking building."

  • Sidenote: Remember when newly-elected President Obama couldn't be bothered to take seriously a question from marijuana legalization advocates during his "Ask the President" interactive online town hall, joking that "This is a very popular question to you online folks"? Ah, good times.

  • On LocalNewsLab, Josh Stearns reports on the emerging trend among news organizations to try to engage their communities in civic action, citing the start-up in Philadelphia, the Christian Science Monitor's "Take Action" section and a new Knight Prototype Fund grant to Chicago's Public Good Software. This is all quite intriguing, but it remains to be seen not only whether old media dogs can learn this new trick, but also whether news readers can get used to the idea of being engaged directly by publications that in the past never sought their involvement.

  • has just launched an API providing full access to drug, device and food enforcement recalls going back to 2004.

  • Lawrence Lessig's MayDayPAC has issued a detailed report on its fundraising so far. The group has pulled in $7.8 million in total. Of the $5.8 million raised (so far) in its second round push, nearly half came in contributions of $10,000 or more (75 top donors listed here). Lessig is still working on raising the full $5 million in large donor matches to that second round, he notes.