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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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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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wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

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The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.

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tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.

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Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.

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monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.

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