At Stake

Racial equity and data-sharing; Protest at scale; Backlash groups on Facebook; and much more.

This is civic tech: Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy center have released a new toolkit for public agencies seeking to center racial equity when they share and integrate data, Stephen Gossett reports for
A new study looking at parliamentary activity under COVID finds that most countries’ legislatures have continued to function, and the more they have adopted technology solutions, the more active they have been. (h/t Marci Harris)
Congrats to our friend Jim Fruchterman, whose new nonprofit Tech Matters, has raised $1.7 million in backing from corporate and foundation sources, including Twilio, Okta, Working Capital, Facebook and Schmidt Futures. ““The mission is to bring the benefits of technology to all of humanity, not the richest 5% of it,” he tells Ned Desmond of TechCrunch.
Here’s more on what’s at stake in the fight to protect the Open Technology Fund from political meddling, courtesy of Pranshu Verma and Edward Wong in the New York Times.
According to a survey of 4,446 Americans done by Civis Analytics, 16% have signed a petition, either on paper or online, in support of the Black Lives Matter movement or in protest of police abuses, 20% have shared opinions or news articles about those issues on social media, and 8.5% say they have participated in a protest, rally or demonstration. (Scroll down in the document to find this question.)
Non-violent movements that persist at this scale over time have often won huge changes, according to comparative research done by Harvard scholar Erika Chenoweth.
Here’s a gorgeous map of all the different types of protest that have been documents by Count Love as having occurred so far in the US in 2020, built by DemLabs.
Attend: The Movement for Black Lives’s Electoral Justice Project is unveiling its new omnibus BREATHE Act, a visionary piece of legislation, this morning at 11am with a live event here.
Apply: Black Girls Code is looking to hire a director of finance and operations.
Life in Facebookia: Private Facebook groups devoted to organizing protests against COVID shutdowns back in April have now pivoted to attacking the Black Lives Matter movement, the AP’s Amanda Seitz reports. Some have literally changed their name (from “Reopen California” to “California Patriots Pro Law & Order”) while others are lightly moderated and generally reflect the tide of Trumpite opinion. “Unless Facebook is actively looking for disinformation in those spaces, they will go unnoticed for a long time and they will grow,” Joan Donovan, the research director at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy, adds. “Over time, people will drag other people into them and they will continue to organize.” While Facebook says it does try to respond to content that violates its rules in private groups, independent experts disagree. Because private group members are reinforcing each other’s existing biases, they are far less likely to flag content for Facebook or fact-checkers to review, Donovan notes.
Tech reporters trying to cover Facebook say it “operates with the secrecy of an intelligence agency and the authority of a state government,” Jacob Silverman writes for the Columbia Journalism Review. ““It is locked down in a way in which no other tech company is,” says Charlie Warzel of The New York Times, with sources and reporters alike worrying that the company will tap any avenue to find and punish leakers. Silverman writes, “With the knowledge that a company that has built a globe-spanning surveillance apparatus might always be watching, reporters and sources take tremendous precautions. Any Facebook-issued device, or even a phone with the Facebook app installed, could be vulnerable to the company’s internal investigators. If a source has friended a reporter on a social network or merely looked up their profile on a company computer, Facebook can find out. It can potentially tap location data to see if a reporter and a source appear to be in the same place at the same time.”
End times: As you dig into your summer reading, this network map by Valdis Krebs showing how buyers of right-leaning and left-leaning political books on Amazon are currently clustering may give you some ideas of how to get out of your personal filter bubble.

You are reading First Post, a twice-a-week digest of news and analysis of the world of civic tech, brought to you by Civic Hall, NYC’s community center for civic tech. If you are reading this because someone forwarded it to you, please become a subscriber ($10/m) and support our work or sign up for our newsletter and stay connected with the #CivicTech community.