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You Can't A/B Test Your Response to Syria

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, September 4 2013

Senate hearing Sept 3, 2013. Department of Defense Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Hinton.

While Congress wrestles with President Obama's unexpected request for formal legal authorization before he orders airstrikes on Syria, it's been fascinating to watch the country's big online advocacy groups try to figure out their own position on the crisis. Should the US bomb Syria in order to punish Bashar Assad for using chemical weapons on his own people, risking a wider American involvement in the conflict and potentially further destabilizing the region? Or should the US stay out of that kind of direct involvement, even if that risks emboldening Assad and could lead to more frequent uses of chemical weapons in the future? These are just some of the hard questions at stake. And what makes any decision even harder is the fast-moving and relatively unique nature of these events. Even tougher for big e-groups like MoveOn.org, Democracy for America, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which collectively claim about ten million list members, the Syria crisis isn't an issue that these groups were formed to address. Nor is there an obvious consensus "progressive" position to promote, beyond the one these groups were all touting in the last few weeks (along with many others, including some conservative organizations), which was the need to bring the question before Congress. Some people are strong anti-interventionists, wary of green-lighting another American incursion in the Middle East. Others worry about genocide, and don't want to look the other way when mass killings of civilians take place. Read More

First POST: This Town

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, September 4 2013

Exclusively for Personal Democracy Plus subscribersIs Washington too obsessed with itself to gauge public opinion on Syria correctly?; Al Gore's incredibly shrinking climate change group; and the best executive director monthly report you've ever seen; plus much, much more. Read More

First POST: Precognition

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, August 30 2013

Exclusively for Personal Democracy Plus subscribers: New revelations about the government's "black budget," new warnings about facial recognition technology; and some hints about 2016 and tech from the RNC's CTO and Democratic campaign strategist Joe Trippi. Read More

First POST: Nihilists

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, August 8 2013

Exclusively for Personal Democracy Plus subscribers: The latest twists in the NSA scandal, advice for Republican would-be techies and wannabe innovative cities; why Samantha Power will break our hearts; and much, much more from around the web. Read More

WeGov

Electronic “Asylum” for the Internetless

BY Rebecca Chao | Monday, July 8 2013

(image: Freedom House/flickr)

While there is no on-off switch for the Internet in Syria, it only takes a few phone calls to turn it off. In the U.S. we can choose from thousands of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to get connected but in Syria, where the government allegedly shut down connectivity several times in recent months, there are only around 14, which are also government-controlled. Read More

WeGov

Does Mobile Technology Exacerbate Wartime Violence?

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, June 5 2013

After watching one video of the war in Syria, YouTube suggests many more, all in the same vein.

You might have heard of 'conflict minerals' making their way into your cell phone, but has it occurred to you that cell phones could be fueling violent conflicts? A recent article in the American Political Science Review by Jan Pierskalla and Florian Hollenbach argues just that.

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WeGov

Are Syria's Internet Outages Increasing in Frequency?

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, May 15 2013

Visualization of the most recent power outage in Syria, courtesy of Arbor Networks

At 3:30 Wednesday morning, Jim Cowie received an automated text message: Syria's Internet was down, again. The eight hour outage today was the second Internet blackout in Syria since the start of May, and the fourth since last November. Many have speculated the blackouts are a result of deliberate government interference, but there is no consensus as to why and indeed no concrete evidence one way or the other.

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Syrian Internet Almost Entirely Dark, Multiple Observers Say

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, May 7 2013

Syrian Internet connections appeared to flicker off throughout the day Tuesday in what appears to be the largest disruption of access since the war-torn country was completely separated from the rest of the digital world last November. Read More

WeGov

Mapping Initiative Provides Visualization of Infrastructure Disruptions in Syria

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, April 15 2013

Screenshot of Syria Digital Security Monitor map

Following months of serious Internet disruptions in Syria, including a total Internet blackout that most experts blamed on the Syrian government, the Canadian foundation SecDev launched a website to monitor such reported disruptions to critical infrastructure including Internet, telecommunication, electricity and water, and reported cyber threats in the hopes of increasing Syrian's online safety. The project relies on crowdsourced reporting and extensive monitoring of Syrian social media. Teaming up with Ushahidi, SecDev will create visualizations in the form of maps and timelines of reports of interruptions to the country's infrastructure.

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WeGov

In Syria, Can Crowdmapping Technology Help Women Under Siege Find Justice?

BY Anna Therese Day | Tuesday, February 26 2013

Screenshot from Women Under Siege: Syria.

Human rights organizers utilize crowdmapping technology for the first time in history to document sexualized violence in Syria’s ongoing war. Read More