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[OP-ED] Big Data: What Happens When Elections Become Social Engineering Competitions

BY David Parry | Tuesday, June 26 2012

Courtesy Estate of John Fekner 2008

UT-Dallas assistant professor David Parry argues that big data and message targeting endangers democracy. Read More

More On Egypt's 'Nullified Ballots' Campaign

BY Lisa Goldman | Monday, June 25 2012

An Egyptian voter nullified his ballot by sketching Batman in the square next to each candidate's photo (Photo: @wessam_s)

Tens of thousands celebrated at Tahrir Square on Sunday afternoon, as the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi was declared the victor in Egypt's presidential elections. Morsi made history by becoming Egypt's first elected civilian president - and the first Islamist elected head of an Arab state. For other revolutionary activists, however, neither candidate was acceptable. To express their dissent, they organized a Mubtellon ('nullify') Campaign . Participants nullified their ballots with slogans and doodling images on their ballots, photographed them and published the photos on Twitter and Facebook. According to official estimates, more than 800,000 ballots were nullified in this manner. Read More

Can Celebrities On Twitter Use Their Fame for Good?

BY Miranda Neubauer | Friday, June 22 2012

Actor Josh Charles has often tweeted about his support for high-speed rail and gay marriage rights. Actress Eva Longoria recently tweeted her support for President Obama's new illegal immigration policy. In the future, could such celebrity endorsements all become much more coordinated, mirroring the Kony 2012 effect? That's what singer and songwriter Smokey Robinson is betting on. Yesterday he announced a new initiative to harness Twitter as a tool for celebrities to raise awareness and help promote good causes. One close observer of online activism says this kind of online buzz is nothing but a "silly idea." Read More

[OP-ED]: Change.org and the Dilemmas of Success [UPDATED]

BY David Karpf | Tuesday, June 19 2012

Op-ed contributor David Karpf writes: "Online petition juggernaut Change.org has become the target of an online petition effort.

Whoa.

Meta.

This weekend, a schoolteacher from Chicago launched a petition at SignOn.org* urging CEO Ben Rattray to “Stop Supporting Union-Busters.” So far it has over 3,700 signatures, but attention is rising. That’s because Rattray’s company is at an inflection point: rooted in progressive politics but structured as an open and for-profit platform, it’s now faced with a clarifying choice about its values and mission."

Read More

Cherokee Nation Members Start Online Effort Against Elizabeth Warren

BY Miranda Neubauer | Friday, June 1 2012

Self-described members of the Cherokee Nation have begun an online effort critical of Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren's controversial claims of Native American heritage, as was first reported by The Republican in Springfield, Massachusetts. Read More

Upgrading Civil Resistance? Gene Sharp's "Methods," Rewritten for 2012

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, May 8 2012

Ushahidi's director of crisis mapping, Patrick Meier, and Meta-Activism Project founder Mary Joyce are collaborating on a project to update and add to Gene Sharp's 198 "Methods of Nonviolent Action," a manual for civil resistance, with ways these techniques could be adjusted for the 21st century. Together with other contributors, they're managing a spreadsheet in Google Docs with each of 198 methods from the pioneering researcher in protest and activism. For each — and a few new ones added on — they're listing ways the traditional method could be tweaked to take advantage of new technology, and ways that those methods could be completely reinvented. Read More

The Double Life of the Obama Campaign's "Julia" Character

BY Miranda Neubauer | Friday, May 4 2012

Two critics of "big government" have taken the Obama campaign's latest interactive, a several-frame graphic that seeks to paint President Barack Obama's policies favorably in comparison to Mitt Romney's, and turned it into a microsite with a remarkably similar parody. "It’s funny because Julia becomes a web/graphic designer, and that’s something I’ve been doing since I was 15 or so," Josh Fields, one of the creators, told techPresident in an email. "I think the part of the story for Julia that’s missing is that life is more of a stumble and fall than a race to the top. That’s something I question if Romney or Obama understand, you can’t promise all this stuff and not expect people to be pissed when they don’t get it." Read More

Planned Parenthood's Most Radical Response to Critics: To Listen, and Let Their Supporters Lead

BY Melissa Gira Grant | Thursday, May 3 2012

A pro-Planned Parenthood rally in St. Paul, Minn. in April. Photo: Fibonacci Blue

Taken in aggregate, the Planned Parenthood/Komen debacle earlier this year was not just a victory for Planned Parenthood, the beleaguered standard-bearer for pro-choice politics. Owing in large part to the way social media can influence mainstream debate, as well as the work that grassroots reproductive rights activists have done to re-center the fight for reproductive rights on larger questions of economic and social justice, activists were able to put efforts to curtail access to abortion and birth control on the defensive. Read More

AFL-CIO PAC Workers' Voice Gives Activists Keys to the Coffer

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, April 26 2012

The AFL-CIO's new political action committee, Workers' Voice, sent an email to supporters today asking them to sign up for a web platform that promises to reward action with the chance to have a say in how the PAC spends its money.

Right now, the action platform asks for an email address and some survey information — do visitors think they should earn points for canvassing door-to-door, or making phone calls to voters; should the PAC spend money on ads or on voter registration — but digital director Tim Tagaris says it will soon be replaced with the platform proper.

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How YouTube Wants To Make Itself More Nonprofit and Activist Friendly

BY Nick Judd | Monday, April 9 2012

Activists used YouTube to release this breakdown of a Sept. 2011 confrontation with police.

Early Google employee and former YouTube product director Hunter Walk leading is "YouTube for Good," an initiative formalized last year to make the video site more useful to activists, educators and nonprofits. The initiative draws on time contributed from existing teams inside the company, but also relies on a small and growing staff — when I spoke to Walk on Thursday, he was on the hunt for an engineer — to work specifically on products for those groups.

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News Briefs

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Another Co-Opted Hashtag: #MustSeeIran

The Twitter hashtag #MustSeeIran was created to showcase Iran's architecture, landscapes, and would-be tourist destinations. It was then co-opted by activists to bring attention to human rights abuses and infringements. Now Twitter is home to two starkly different portraits of a country. GO

At NETmundial Brazil: Is "Multistakeholderism" Good for the Internet?

Today and tomorrow Brazil is hosting NETmundial, a global multi-stakeholder meeting on the future of Internet governance. GO

Brazilian President Signs Internet Bill of Rights Into Law at NetMundial

Earlier today Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned Marco Civil, also called the Internet bill of rights, during the global Internet governance event, NetMundial, in Brazil.

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tuesday >

Ruck.us Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like Democracy.com

Ruck.us launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new Ruck.us is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and Democracy.com. And strangely enough, Ruck.us seems to want its early users to ask Democracy.com for help. GO

Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.

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monday >

The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.

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The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.

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Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

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