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WeGov

[Op-Ed] Tech, Democracy and USAID

BY Katrin Verclas | Thursday, April 10 2014

Among a myriad of controversies surrounding ZunZuneo is the illicit collection of millions of cell phone numbers (teleyradio)

There has been much debate about the ill-fated "Cuban Twitter" program funded by USAID, the US development agency, and administered by Beltway contractors Creative Associates and MobileAccord. While "Cuban Twitter" was indeed completely mismanaged, USAID is involved in a myriad of other projects that are supporting democracy efforts, citizen oversight over institutions, political party development, and fair elections. Many of these purport to have a technology component as well. So how do they fare? Read More

First POST: Stunts

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, April 8 2014

USAID pushes back in defense of ZunZeneo; Indian candidate copies from Obama data playbook; cities from Boston to Philly to San Francisco roll with the web; and much much more. Read More

First POST: USAID's Exploding Cigar

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, April 7 2014

Why ZunZeneo, the "Cuban Twitter" funded by USAID, was such a bad idea; some hard questions about the Comcast-TimeWarner merger; tech's "man problem"; and much, much more. Read More

WeGov

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People: The Problem with ZunZuneo and "Cuban Twitter"

BY Anne Nelson | Monday, April 7 2014

Rock painting of the "Cuban Five" (Photo copyright: Anne Nelson, 2013)

On April 3, the AP broke the story of ZunZuneo, a USAID-funded text messaging service in Cuba designed to circumvent government censorship and build a platform for dissent. Latin America expert and new media scholar Anne Nelson explains why the covert project was such a bad idea. Read More

WeGov

One Messaging App, Internet Optional. And Hold The Censorship, Please.

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, April 2 2014

meliesthebunny/flickr

Since its launch less than two weeks ago, FireChat has been called a SnapChat and Whisper hybrid or something between SnapChat and Chatroulette. Even more astounding, in Taiwan—where FireChat toppled reigning messaging app Line from its place as number one social networking app in the App Store—thousands of participants in the Sunflower Movement have been encouraged to download the app as a means of communication during protests against a controversial trade agreement with mainland China. Bonus: FireChat is also facilitating unmediated conversations between Taiwanese and mainland Chinese users.

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First POST: Font of Wisdom

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, March 28 2014

Charting the various NSA reform proposals; mapping the Twitter/YouTube/Facebook bans; exiting from Facebook?; and much, much more. Read More

WeGov

Think Erdogan Will Delete His 18K Strong Twitter Bot Army In Quest to "Wipe Out" Twitter?

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, March 27 2014

Megan Fox is a popular pro-AKP Twitter bot photo (Wikipedia)

Sure, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan may say he wants to “wipe out” Twitter, but he is not above using an 18,000 strong “robot army” to spread pro-Justice and Development Party (AKP) messages on Twitter.

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First POST: Turning Points

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, March 26 2014

Edward Snowden offers praise for President Obama's proposed ending of NSA bulk collection of phone records; why tech companies still love surveillance; the latest in the Turkey-Twitter war; and much, much more. Read More

WeGov

Turkey's Twitter Ban and Why the Country's Still Tweeting

BY Carola Frediani | Tuesday, March 25 2014

khalid Albaih/flickr

When Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided on Thursday to “wipe out” Twitter, banning the microblogging website across the country, he made it more popular than ever. In a few hours after the ban, hashtags like #TurkeyblockedTwitter and #TwitterisblockedinTurkey became trending topics. Turkish netizens managed to post more than half a million tweets in the 10 hours following the ban with an average of about 1.8 million tweets per day, according to Al Jazeera. That figure quickly grew to the point of setting a new record for the country. Read More

WeGov

After Spectacular Twitter Ban Fail, Turkey Becomes First Country To Block Google DNS

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, March 24 2014

Screenshot of a Tor graph of usage spiking in Turkey

After the Twitter block in Turkey failed so spectacularly last week—sending the numbers of in-country tweets sky high—the authorities responded by blocking Google DNS, one of the most popular ways of circumventing the Twitter ban. The action has earned Turkey the dubious distinction of being the first country to block Google DNS.

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News Briefs

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In Mexico, A Wiki Makes Corporate Secrets Public

Earlier this year the Latin American NGO Poder launched Quién Es Quién Wiki (Who's Who Wiki), a corporate transparency project more than two years in the making. The hope is that the platform will be the foundation for a citizen-led movement demanding transparency and accountability from businesses in Mexico. Data from Quién Es Quién Wiki is already helping community activists mobilize against foreign companies preparing to mine the mountains of the Sierra Norte de Puebla.

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NY Study Shows How Freedom of Information Can Inform Open Data

On New York State's open data portal, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation has around 40 data resources of varying sizes, such as maps of lakes and ponds and rivers, bird conservation areas and hiking trails. But those datasets do not include several data resources that are most sought after by many New York businesses, a new study from advocacy group Reinvent Albany has found. Welcome to a little-discussed corner of so-called "open government"--while agencies often pay lip service to the cause, the data they actually release is sometimes nowhere close to what is most wanted. GO

Responding to Ferguson, Activists Organize #NMOS14 Vigils Across America In Just 4 Days

This evening peaceful crowds will gather at more than 90 locations around the country to honor the victims of police brutality, most recently the unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on Saturday. A moment of silence will begin at 20 minutes past 7 p.m. (EST). The vigils are being organized almost entirely online by the writer and activist Feminista Jones (@FeministaJones), with help from others from around the country who have volunteered to coordinate a vigil in their communities. Organizing such a large event in only a few days is a challenge, but in addition to ironing out basic logistics, the National Moment of Silence (#NMOS14) organizers have had to deal with co-optation, misrepresentation, and Google Docs and Facebook pages that are, apparently, buckling under traffic.

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