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First POST: Inventions

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, October 27 2014


  • The deal between the Data Trust, the RNC's voter data arm, to begin sharing voter files with i360, the Koch brothers analytics house, did not come easily, reports Jon Ward for Yahoo! News, in an in-depth article on the state of Republican tech efforts. He writes, "Too many Republican consultants and state parties still see data as an asset to be hoarded, rather than a tool that gains power and value the more it is shared with and used by like-minded allies." Wait, isn't sharing = socialism?

  • Speaking of GOP tech: In case you haven't had this story targeted to you already on your Twitter feed, here's Steven Freiss' feature profile of Vincent Harris, who now must be referred to as "The Man Who Invented the Republican Internet." The short version: Harris, who helped make Ted Cruz into a US Senator, is very good at digital marketing. Now working for Mitch McConnell, Freiss writes, Harris "junked the senator’s old database software and replaced it with a new system of managing lists of potential voters, donors, and volunteers. He’s created new methods for keeping track of how well or badly voters have responded to phone calls, e-mails, and mailers. And he’s got a 24/7 social media operation—the 2014 answer to the war room." No kidding.

  • Field volunteers on both sides of the aisle are using "data-infused smartphones and tablets" to better target their get-out-the-vote efforts in North Carolina, report Ashley Parker and Jonathan Weisman for The New York Times, in one of a wave of overview stories about political technology we're seeing as the election nears. If only some news organization was using data to tell us how well these efforts are going…

  • Remember the controversial Facebook "emotional contagion" study? Its lead academic author Jeff Hancock of Cornell has begun talking publicly about his role in the research and the aftermath of the study's publication, and in this long and careful post, critic Jay Rosen explains why he is still unconvinced by Hancock.

  • Facebook's data engineers change the algorithm driving its users' News Feed on a weekly basis, reports Ravi Somaiya for the New York Times. The company drives about one-fifth of traffic to news sites.

  • In an accompanying column, the Times' David Carr explains why this is making news publishers very, very nervous.

  • Google has launched "Skybox for Good," a program that will donate up-to-date satellite imagery "to projects that save lives, protect the environment, promote education, and positively impact humanity."

  • Julian Assange has posted a long excerpt from his new book, When Google Met WikiLeaks, that details his investigation of the many ties between the giant company's chairman Eric Schmidt and the US foreign policy establishment. Read the whole thing.

  • Politico's Tony Romm reports on the complicated relationship tech giants are developing with their Washington politicking, noting how it often contrasts with their idealistic branding.

  • Wikipedia's page on Ebola has emerged as one of the most visited sites on the topic, reports Noam Cohen for the New York Times, and an internal team of editors is keeping "close watch on the most important public health articles" on the site.

  • In just the latest example of misogyny online, take a look at the vicious reactions Anita Sarkeesian received this past Friday after suggesting that the fact that mass shootings in America are almost always committed by men and boys is connected to "ideas of toxic masculinity in our culture."

  • Elon Musk, of Tesla and SpaceX, says he believes artificial intelligence may be humanity's "biggest existential threat" and that he is investing in it mainly to keep an eye on its development. Thank goodness someone is thinking ahead.

  • Happy 10th birthday to Global Voices Online! The community is sharing their stories about their first posts, here.