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First POST: Catch-ups

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, January 5 2015


  • Politico's Darren Samuelsohn rounds up the latest thinking on voter targeting techniques, with privacy advocates warning that at some point campaigns will go too far.

  • The "invisible primary" for the 2016 presidential campaign starts now, and one requirement to be competitive, according to Nicco Mele of Harvard's Kennedy School, is an email list of at least one million supporters by this March, reports John McCormick for Bloomberg News.

  • Democratic data wonks think they won (despite losing) in 2014 because they figured out how to "scale down" data sciences to state and local races, CNN Peter Hanby reports.

  • Net neutrality update: Some imposition of Title II of the Communications Act seems more likely, reports Brian Fung for the Washington Post, taking the pulse of the ongoing lobbying of the FCC over its forthcoming open Internet ruling.

  • Tony Romm reports for Politico on how the incoming Republican majority plans to torpedo any FCC rules promoting net neutrality.

  • Patrisse Cullors, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter, pens an oped for The Hill on the relationship between net neutrality and online civil rights activism:

    The Internet is the most democratic communication platform in history, largely because we’ve had network neutrality rules that make sure all web traffic is treated equally, and no voices are discriminated against. Because of network neutrality rules, activists can turn to the Internet to bypass the discrimination of mainstream cable, broadcast and print outlets as we organize for change. It is because of net neutrality rules that the Internet is the only communication channel left where Black voices can speak and be heard, produce and consume, on our own terms. 

  • The White House's third CTO, Megan Smith, is profiled in the New York Times by Julie Hirschfeld Davis as a shining example of women leading in tech. But former Presidential Innovation Fellow Clay Johnson offers some gentle criticisms: “The real struggle for Megan Smith is that while this role does have a direct line to the presidency, it does not have much of a budget or any authority over other agencies…I wish they had people in there for this last two years that could make the trains run on time, not somebody who has big ideas,” he says.

  • With elections coming up this spring in the UK, The Guardian's John Naughton looks at Facebook's power to influence voter turnout and asks whether we should somehow regulate the company to ensure balance and fairness.

  • Cybersecurity experts outside of government remain inclined to think an insider was the source of the Sony hack, not North Korea, Ryan Faughnder and Saba Hamedy report for the LA Times.

  • You probably missed this story, because it came out on Christmas Eve. That's when the NSA, responding to a FOIA lawsuit from the ACLU, released heavily redacted internal reports showing that it "may have violated the law or US policy over more than a decade, including unauthorized surveillance of Americans' overseas communications," as David Lerman reported for Bloomberg News.

  • Continuing to mine the Snowden trove for insight, Der Spiegel's investigative team (including Jacob Applebaum and Laura Poitras) reports on which forms of encrypted communication the NSA apparently hasn't yet cracked.

  • Privacy and free speech activists in Iceland, led by the International Modern Media Institute, continue to plug away at their effort to make the island nation a "Switzerland" for information freedom, Felix Gaedtke reports for Al Jazeera.

  • In Russia, writes Emily Parker for the New York Times, "the Internet alone is not enough to overcome" the Putin government's authoritarianism.

  • Related: Philip Bennett and Moises Naim's cover story in the Columbia Journalism Review on "21st-century censorship" takes a detailed look at how repressive governments around the world have successfully adapted to the rise of the Internet. Read the whole thing.

  • Mark Headd, the former chief data officer for Philadelphia, explains why "In an age where data is law, an absence of open data diminishes the ability of the people to effectively participate in our modern democracy."

  • Gotham Gazette's Kristen Meriwether looks at the prospects for increased collaboration between the tech sector and New York City government in 2015.

  • And a reminder: Civic Hall, our soon-to-be-open new community center for civic tech in New York City, is taking applications for membership.