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RIP, Change.gov

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Friday, July 26 2013

President Barack Obama's personal brand is inextricably linked to the words "hope and change," thanks to his initial presidential campaign, so it's not surprising that open government advocates are pouncing on the removal of the contents of Change.gov as a symbol of a broken promise. Read More

Surveillance Scandal Casts a Shadow Over Data-Driven Dems at Netroots Nation

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Monday, June 24 2013

Image: g4ll4is/Flickr

The subject of personal privacy in the digital age loomed large in the minds of many attendees of this year's Netroots Nation in San Jose as the national debate continued over the ethics of the Obama Administration's national security surveillance techniques. So perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise that the political operatives who capitalized on the American electorate's personal data to achieve victory in 2012 felt a bit defensive last week as they celebrated their cutting-edge strategies to beat back state-level conservative initiatives, and to elect Democratic candidates. Read More

Silicon Valley Libertarians Cling to Their Guns: "Gun Control is Technology Control"

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Tuesday, February 19 2013

Calguns Foundation Chairman Gene Hoffman on his semi-automatic AR-15: "It's normal." Photo: Sarah Lai Stirland

Gene Hoffman, an affable Silicon Valley entrepreneur, speaks rapidly and logically, and his hands whiz expertly around the weapon as he attaches the lower receiver into the rest of his LCW-15, a type of AR-15 rifle. At 38, he is the CEO of Vindicia, a digital subscription payments processing firm. But he's also chairman of the non-profit Calguns Foundation, which is part of a national network of gun-rights activists that are defending Second Amendment rights in court and fighting legislative battles in statehouses.

"It's weird for me to hear about technologists in the wake of Sandy Hook saying that we should ban guns -- gun control is simply technology control," Hoffman says.

I am in Hoffman's office to understand how he, and Calguns, have come to sit at the center of a network of activists that are baffling efforts to roll back the nation's gun culture and stem the spread of deadly assault weapons. Here is what I found out.

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With Sunlight and MySociety Grants, Google.org Signals Interest in Civic Technology

BY Miranda Neubauer | Wednesday, January 16 2013

Google.org announced today that it would be providing $3.7 million in funding to the Sunlight Foundation* and mySociety for their work on technological solutions for civic innovation. Read More

Democratic Promise: Aaron Swartz, 1986-2013

BY Micah L. Sifry | Saturday, January 12 2013

Aaron Swartz at a Boston Wikipedia Meetup, August 2009, By Sage Ross.

Aaron Swartz, a leading activist for open information, internet freedom, and democracy, died at his own hand Friday January 11. He was 26 years old. There is no single comprehensive list of his good works, but here are some of them: At the age of 14 he co-authored the RSS 1.0 spec--taking brilliant advantage of the fact that internet working groups didn't care if someone was 14, they only cared if their code worked. Then he met Larry Lessig and worked closely with him on the early architecting of Creative Commons, an immense gift to all kinds of sharing of culture. He also was the architect and first coder of the Internet Archive's OpenLibrary.org, which now has made more than one million books freely available to anyone with an internet connection. "We couldn't have come this far without his crucial expertise," Open Library says on its about page. He also co-founded Reddit.com, the social news site, and Demand Progress, an online progressive action group that played a vital role in the anti-SOPA/PIPA fight. He also contributed occasionally to Personal Democracy Forum, writing this article on why wikis work and this essay on "parpolity" or the idea that nested councils of elected representatives could be used to represent a whole country, for our 2008 book, Rebooting America. He was a fellow traveler. Read More

WeGov

After a Shaky Start, Slovakia's Open Gov't Portal Succeeds With Help from Open Contracts

BY Lisa Goldman | Thursday, November 8 2012

Earlier this year the government of Slovakia launched a portal that was supposed to make all public contracts and invoices available online. But as Sunlight Foundation International Fellow Matej Kurian recounts, there were serious problems from the outset: The site "...was half-baked, missing full-text search, documents preview or space for comments. While the policy produced more data (“transparency,” if you will), it left accountability untouched." Read More

As Ads with Mystery Donors Rush Into Politics, Searching Their Wake for Clues

BY Miranda Neubauer | Wednesday, October 10 2012

The Sunlight Foundation* has launched Political Ad Sleuth, a project to track and help contribute to a database detailing money spent on political ads this election year.

The initial source of the documents in the database comes from around 200 local stations' "political files" — tranches, mandated by the Federal Communications Commission, of data on all the political ads bought at each station and at what price. Those 200 stations in the 50 largest television markets in the country were required to hand over those datasets beginning earlier this year to be posted online.

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California Proposal Would Require More Disclosure for Paid Political Blogging

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Thursday, September 27 2012

Do Not Feed The Sock Puppets. Photo: Magnus Digity/Flickr

Exclusively for Personal Democracy Plus subscribers: The chairwoman of California's Fair Political Practices Commission has proposed a rule that would require political campaigns to disclose payments to bloggers or people embarking on paid social media forays on their behalf. She says she won't push to advance the proposal until after the November elections — but the mere thought of revisiting disclosure, discussed in the Federal Election Commission's last major Internet rulemaking in 2005 and 2006, has bloggers incensed. Read More

Two New Mobile Apps Launch To ID Groups Behind Political TV Ads

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Wednesday, August 22 2012

Two new mobile apps, "Ad Hawk," and "Super PAC App" became available Wednesday, enabling U.S. voters with smartphones to instantly discover who's trying to influence their vote through television ads. Read More

Who's Paying For That Attack Ad? New FCC TV Political Ad Database Aims For More Disclosure

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Thursday, August 2 2012

The FCC's clunky new political TV ad database goes live. Read More