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First POST: Intercepted

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, July 7 2014


  • Barton Gellman, Julie Tate and Ashkan Soltani broke a huge new story in the Washington Post Sunday, detailing how the NSA's dragnet surveillance program intercepts far more communications from Americans and other "ordinary" Internet users than they do of "legally targeted foreigners." They note that the "collateral harm to privacy" is "on a scale that the Obama administration has not been willing to address."

  • Their report was based on a trove of emails, photos, social network messages, chat records and instant messages--roughly 160,000 in all--that whistleblower Edward Snowden shared with the Post. (Until recently, US official denied that Snowden had access to this data.) Nine in ten of the 11,400 accounts swept up in those intercepts were of bystanders.

  • Nothing to pay attention to here, just move along, administration officials told David Sanger and Matt Apuzzo in The New York Times, regarding the Post's story.

  • PandoDaily's Paul Carr trolls Glenn Greenwald for not yet publishing his self-proclaimed "final" big scoop from the Snowden files.

  • Annals of Manipulation: The Participant Index, funded by the Gates and Knight Foundations and supported by the Annenberg School of Communication, is a (proprietary) attempt to measure the actual impact of socially conscious media programming, like films, documentaries, TV shows and online videos, reports Michael Cieply for the New York Times.

  • The tool may be used to grade content based on how well it moves people to action, and thus alter decisions about what kinds of socially conscious media to fund. Thus, Cieply notes, a media product like "The Square," which movingly depicts the January 25 movement that overthrew Egypt's Hosni Mubarak but failed to take power itself, would be ranked lower than a comic web series called "Farmed and Dangerous" that actually got people to change their purchasing behavior. If that example is indicative, the Participant Index should lead funders to support more "easy change" projects and shy away from "hard change." Great!

  • Lawrence Lessig's MayDay PAC raised more than $5 million in pledges by its self-imposed deadline of July 4, garnering the support for more than 47,000 individual donors. Now, as Timothy Lee reports on Vox, he has to figure out how to spend an estimated $12 million warchest on a deeply polarized Congress, where there may not be many races where a bet for or against a real campaign finance reformer can make a difference.

  • ICYMI: My piece on "Why Facebook's 'Voter Megaphone' Is the Real Manipulation to Worry About."