Button Down

The bigger button; Iran cracks down on social media; and more.


  • This is civic tech: Democracy Works is becoming the organizational home of the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), with Amy Cohen, DW’s director of government outreach, becoming the group’s executive director. This is just the latest sign of Democracy Works’ success at engaging state election administrators in improving their voting systems; this fall the Virginia Department of Elections contracted with the group to use its “Ballot Tracker” system for tracking mail-in ballots, ultimately handling more than 200,000 of them. (And in 2016, Google and Facebook served up 123 million answers to the question “where do I vote” using data supplied by Democracy Works.)

  • Congrats to Civic Hall member Michael Simon, co-founder and CEO of Elucd, which just raised a $1 million seed round, with support from the Omidyar Network, Y Combinator and a group of angel investors. Elucd provides police departments with “ongoing neighborhood-level data showing the degree to which the public trusts the police and whether people feel safe in their communities.”

  • Trump watch: Is it normalizing the president’s madness to ignore his insane tweet bragging about the size of his “Nuclear Button,” or is looking the other way it just what we need to do to make it through the day? You decide; I’m donating to Global Zero. (That Trump tweet has 323,000 likes as of this morning, about 4-5x his usual number.)

  • Crypto-wars, continued: Chris Soghoian is finishing his stint as a TechCongress fellow in Senator Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) office by staying on as his senior technologist. This is very good news for everyone who wants Congress to be better informed on cyber-security issues.

  • The 2018 primary elections kick off in less than two months in Texas, and as Evan Osnos reports for the New Yorker, little has been done to reduce the election system’s vulnerabilities to hackers.

  • Media matters: Americans consumed a lot of misinformation in 2016, especially in the month before the election, according to a new academic study. Approximately one in four Americans visited a fake news site during that fateful month, with “almost 6 in 10 visits to fake news websites [coming] from the 10 percent of people with the most conservative online information diets.” Using survey data and individual web traffic histories, the researchers—Andrew Guess, Brendan Nyhan, and Jason Reifler—also found that “Facebook was a key vector of fake news” and that fact-checking of misinformation almost never reached the people consuming it.

  • Iran is cracking down on the use of social media tools, while protests spread across the country, Sheera Frankel reports for The New York Times.

  • Bro culture: Vanity Fair has an excerpt from Emily Chang’s new book Brotopia, depicting a dark side of Silicon Valley made up of overcompensated and oversexed man-boys making up for lost time by going to exclusive sex parties where the women are essentially procured for their exploitation. I am prepared to believe this and worse about tech bros, but Chang’s book excerpt is very slim on named sources, making me wonder if it isn’t one of those stories that are a little too good to be true. Remember The New Republic’s fabulist Stephen Glass, who made up an orgy story about young conservatives?

  • Apply: MySociety is looking to hire a political researcher to work on its Democratic Commons project.