Taking Liberties

The sketchy origins of many Bernie bros; Bharara is fired; and more.


  • Opposition watch: A coalition of civil liberties and human rights organizations have written to the Director of Homeland Security urging him to reject any proposal to require visitors to provide log-in information to their online accounts as a condition of entry into the United States, calling it “a direct assault on fundamental rights [that] would weaken, rather than promote, national security.”

  • Speaking of civil liberties, the ACLU launched its PeoplePower.org effort on Saturday with 2,700 house parties and about 200,000 attendees. The organization is calling on people to organize city-by-city to work with and, if necessary, press local law enforcement to guarantee the freedoms of immigrants and refugees residing in the United States. It will be interesting to watch how PeoplePower rolls out—unlike Indivisible or the Women’s March groups, it has more of a centralized blueprint and deeper resources to draw on (heck, it’s got a data entry team that is punching in all the data collected from scanned sheets sent in by local house party organizers), but also aims to give local groups a fair amount of autonomy to figure out how to best implement the group’s goals.

  • The Washington Post’s David Weigel reports that “Since the 2016 election, [the ACLU] has tripled its membership to more than 1.2 million and raised more than $80 million, with plans to add 100 staff members to a team of about 300.” Six key organizers of the People Power effort are veterans of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, Weigel notes.

  • Yahoo News’ Hunter Walker profiles Faiz Shakir, the ACLU’s new national political director, who is spearheading the new PeoplePower effort.

  • Trump time: “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody’s else’s babies,” Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King tweeted on Sunday. Ned Resnikoff of Think Progress adds context.

  • A trio of ethics watchdog groups wrote to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of New York asking him to investigate President Trump’s business ties or benefits from foreign governments last Wednesday. Three days later he was fired, along with 46 other U.S. Attorneys.

  • Yesterday, Bharara tweeted, “By the way, now I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like,” a cryptic comment that refers to a New York State ethics investigative body that was abruptly shut down by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2014 well before its anti-corruption work was finished.

  • Privacy at stake: Mozilla surveyed 30,000 internet users and discovered that barely 10 percent believe they know how to protect themselves online. More results of that survey here, along with some very useful next steps to take.

  • Related: Our old friend Josh Levy is starting the Digital Security Exchange, with the goal of making it easier “for trainers and experts to connect directly to the communities in the U.S. — building trust and sharing expertise, documentation, and best practices — in order to increase capacity and security across the board.”

  • Tech and politics: After Hillary Clinton became the Democratic nominee last summer, there was a surge of fake news sites and user accounts that appeared to belong to Bernie Sanders supporters but in fact were generated by spammers with domain registrations traceable back to Eastern Europe, Ryan Grim, and Jason Cherkis report for The Huffington Post. They argue that these fake accounts took advantage of existing divisions between Clinton and Sanders supporters, writing, “…the more the fake news was passed around, the harder the divisions became. Clinton backers would charge Sanders supporters with being obnoxious, sexist ‘Bernie bros.’ Many of those bros may have been trolls, not real Sanders supporters. Tell that to a Clinton backer, however, and you can be accused of dismissing the hostility they faced.”

  • Microsoft researcher Kate Crawford warns that new artificial intelligence systems could be “a fascist’s dream.”

  • This is civic tech: House Democratic minority whip Steny Hoyer has launched ResistRepeal.org in partnership with PopVox, the nonpartisan platform for civic engagement and legislative information. As Hoyer explains, the site will tally and display the opinion of any American who speaks out on the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and deliver those opinions to that person’s individual representatives in Congress. Marci Harris, PopVox’s founder (and longtime friend of Civic Hall) notes that this is significant not only because her site delivers those messages in a way that member offices can process them, it also displays the cumulative tally of public opinion on pending bills by district. As she writes, “Why is that transparency important? Well, let’s put it this way: if you are burning up the phone lines and shutting down the fax machine for a particular Congressional office, they don’t have to pick up, they don’t have to count it, and they don’t have to tell anyone about it. With POPVOX, lawmakers can’t deny that they are hearing from real constituents with real concerns.”

  • Adele Peters reports in Fast Company about ongoing experiments in using “liquid democracy” tools in places like Australia and Argentina that to reinvent representative democracy.

  • Kickstarter turned itself into a Benefit Corporation last year, and its first annual benefit statement is pretty impressive.

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