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Bad News Bots: How Civil Society Can Combat Automated Online Propaganda

BY Sam Woolley and Phil Howard | Wednesday, December 10 2014

Clever Script Kiddies (by DeNovo Broome, CC BY 2.0)

t’s no secret that governments and political actors now make use of social robots or bots—automated scripts that produce content and mimic real users. Faux social media accounts now spread pro-governmental messages, beef up web site follower numbers, and causeartificial trends. Bot-generated propaganda and misdirection has become a worldwide political strategy. In this guest post, Sam Woolley and Phil Howard suggest some ways to fight back. Read More

First POST: Wartime

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, September 24 2014

A bizarre online marketing effort targets actress Emma Watson; why the news media needs to defend the privacy of its online readers; Chicago's playbook for civic user testing; and much, much more. Read More

New US Digital Service Looks to Avoid IT Catastrophes

BY Alex Howard | Wednesday, August 13 2014

USDS' Mikey Dickerson at the 2009 MySQL Conference (Photo by Jorge Bernal)

At a time when the public's trust in institutions is at historic lows, the federal government's use of technology has an unusual place in the national discourse. After the first Internet president's administration was responsible for the high-profile failure of Healthcare.gov, the issue seemed ripe to drive significant reform on Capitol Hill. Even if some 10 million adults gained health insurance through the Affordable Care Act after "Obama's trauma team" made successful fixes to Healthcare.gov, negative public perception has lingered, and for good reason. Under the radar, other projects have continued to sputter, like a $300 million dollar Social Security government IT boondoggle that still has not delivered a working system for submitting disability claims. The crash of the FCC's dated website under the weight of 1.1 million comments this summer didn't help, either. At the same time, the confidence of the technology community has been damaged by revelations of dragnet surveillance and surreptitious backdoors planted in software. Now, the executive branch has launched two new initiatives aimed squarely at these issues, 18F and the just-announced US Digital Service, Alex Howard reports. Read More

@Congressedits Hopes to See More Wikipedians in Congress

BY Miranda Neubauer | Monday, July 14 2014

In the future, could members of Congress list their Wikipedia edits on their homepage along with their voting records and constituent services? That is the vision of Congressedits, a Twitter feed that within only the past few days has helped popularize the idea of anonymously tracking government and instutional edits to Wikipedia pages around the world. Read More

WeGov

For British UKIP, Twitter Mentions May Not Translate to Votes

BY Miranda Neubauer | Friday, May 23 2014

As techPresident reported yesterday, a Pew study of tweets around the European elections found that in all three languages studied, English, German and French, most of the discussion appeared to focus on the parties most ... Read More

WeGov

British Police Officers Ask Blogger to Delete Politically Critical Tweet

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, May 13 2014

This weekend two Cambridgeshire police officers called upon the blogger Michael Abberton at his home residence. After asking to come in for a chat they asked Abberton to delete a certain tweet, even though they clearly said no laws had been broken. According to Abberton, who wrote about the exchange on his blog Axe of Reason, the complaint had come from the political party mentioned in the offending (although not in any way illegal) tweet. The exchange has raised questions about censorship, police intimidation, and the influence of this political party.

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WeGov

England's Care.data Fiasco: Open Government Data Done Wrong

BY Wendy M. Grossman | Monday, April 21 2014

Screengrab from Paul Bernal's parody of the "Downfall" video

Given the power to open up access to public health data in legislation passed in 2012, the governing health authority ordered care.data into being at the end of 2013, and distributed information leaflets in January 2014. Unfortunately, the process has been confused by conflicting promises of protecting personal information and expanding commercial access. The resulting furor, which has seen the program delayed for six months for a rethink, has seriously damaged public trust in how the English National Health Service (NHS) intends to manage the country's medical data. Wendy M. Grossman explains what went wrong. Read More

WeGov

Second "Data as Culture" Exhibit Animates Open Data

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, March 24 2014

Screenshot from the short film about the art installation "Invisible Airs"

The second Data as Culture exhibit opens at the Open Data Institute (ODI) in London Monday evening. It features works of art built around and from open data sources, and is meant to provoke questions about data ownership and access and the fine line between public and private.

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WeGov

A First: Reporters Without Borders Declares UK, US “Enemies of the Internet”

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, March 17 2014

Screenshot of a graphic from the Reporters Without Borders report

It's official: the surveillance activities of the NSA and the GCHQ have earned the United Kingdom and the United States a new title: “Enemy of the Internet.” They share the honor with the likes of China, Cuba, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Syria, among others.

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WeGov

In Soggy UK, Is #FloodHack A Solution or a Shield?

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, February 18 2014

Screenshot of a Youtube video depicting a flooded Worcester overtaken by swans (credit:INT/youtube)

What's that Prince William is cradling? His son Prince George? Nope—that's a sandbag. Prince William and Prince Harry pitched in to flood defense efforts Valentine's Day ahead of yet another winter storm. The storms have been so bad this season that they have earned their own BBC listicle, beginning with the October storm St Jude, which cost four people their lives, and ending with severe flooding along the Thames last week as it reached at its highest level in 60 years. On Sunday, London's technology community took a different approach to flood relief as they came together for a hackathon dubbed #FloodHack.

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