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First POST: Scary Monsters

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, October 31 2014

Scary Monsters

  • Facebook has finally opened up about the experiments it was conducting in 2012 on its users' voting behavior, as I detail today in this story for Mother Jones.

  • We're far from #1: "Downloading a high-definition movie takes about seven seconds in Seoul, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Zurich, Bucharest and Paris, and people pay as little as $30 a month for that connection," writes Claire Cain Miller for the New York Times. "In Los Angeles, New York and Washington, downloading the same movie takes 1.4 minutes for people with the fastest Internet available, and they pay $300 a month for the privilege." This is from "The Cost of Connectivity," a new report from the Open Technology Institute.

  • FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is planning to reclassify broadband as a common-carrier service, but only for back-end services, not retail, reports Gautham Nagesh for the Wall Street Journal.

  • Open internet advocacy group Free Press president Craig Aaron blasted this news, saying "This Frankenstein proposal is no treat for Internet users, and they shouldn't be tricked."

  • Susan Crawford digs into a detailed report on how the big broadband providers have been "intentionally squeezing data coming from some incoming networks--in particular, networks associated with Netflix."

  • In the wake of Matt Taibbi's resignation from First Look Media, the co-founders and editor of The Intercept--Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Jeremy Scahill and John Cook--have posted their version of how things came to this pass, and it's not a pretty picture.

  • Hollaback's video of a white woman walking through New York City being verbally harassed by men more than 100 times over the course of a typical day went viral, getting more than 15 million views, but triggering a backlash--especially once the video's director, Rob Bliss, admitted that he had edited out many of the white men harassing the actress in the video (he blamed noise pollution).

  • For helpful context, see Deanna Zandt's meditation on the problem of "street harassment, public consent, race and more."

  • Sean Eldridge, the husband of Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, who is running as a first-time candidate for Congress in upstate New York, is foundering in his effort to unseat Rep. Chris Gibson, reports Michael Barbaro for the New York Times.

  • Says Apple CEO Tim Cook: "While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me."

  • Do civic tech sites like the ones built by MySociety change people's political activity and engagement habits? A new pathbreaking research report suggests that the answer is yes--"a small but quantifiable uplift in 'civic participation' was noticed"--but users of tools like, the group's flagship parliamentary monitoring site, don't report a change in how much political influence or understanding they think they have. Major kudos to MySociety for digging in deep here--we're looking forward to further findings from this work.

  • Code for America has launched a "civic tech issue finder" aiming to connect open problems with civic hackers.

  • Orwell was right: Michael Price of the Brennan Center bought a new "smart TV" and he was shocked after he read the 46-page privacy policy that comes with it. Among other things, the device has a voice recognition tool allowing users to tell the TV what they want, which comes with this warning: " “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.”

  • WIN: Hungary's rightwing government has dropped its planned Internet tax after mass protests this week in Budapest, Amar Toor reports for The Verge.