Can Do

Text, text revolution; an app for clearing criminal records; and more.


  • Tech and injustice: A U.S. appeals court threw out federal prison phone rate caps yesterday, Sam Gustin reports for Motherboard, because new FCC chief Ajit Pai stopped defending the Obama-era rules in a legal fight brought by the largest private prison phone provider.

  • This is civic tech: Allen Young reports for KQED News on the app developed by Code for America that is helping the formerly incarcerated clear or reduce their criminal record—nearly 2,000 Californians to date.

  • In an op-ed for Civicist, co-founder and director of Kairos Mariana Ruiz Firmat asks both what can racial equity do for civic tech—and what civic tech can do for racial equity.

  • Text, text revolution: For Civicist, I cover the highlights of last week’s PDF panel on peer-to-peer texting as a digital organizing tactic.

  • Starting in 2018, New York City residents and visitors can begin contacting 911 via text, Brigid Bergin reports for WNYC.

  • IssueVoter has received an investment from coLabs to work on increasing civic participation among women voters, according to press releases. Other companies to receive investment include African Renewable Energy and doctHERs.

  • What sharing economy? Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is taking a leave of absence from the company, Priya Anand and Ryan Mac report for BuzzFeed. “For Uber 2.0 to succeed there is nothing more important than dedicating my time to building out the leadership team,” he wrote in a company-wide email. “But if we are going to work on Uber 2.0, I also need to work on Travis 2.0 to become the leader that this company needs and that you deserve.”

  • At an all-hands meeting to discuss Kalanick’s leave of absence from the company, Arianna Huffinton, Uber’s eternal optimist, said, “There’s a lot of data that shows when there’s one woman on the board, it’s much more likely that there will be a second woman on the board.” Fellow Uber board member David Bonderman then quipped, “Actually what it shows is it’s much likely to be more talking,” reports Yahoo’s JP Mangalindan. Bonderman resigned Wednesday.

    Additional details: At another point in the meeting, workers were instructed to all “stand up and give each other a hug.” And they are renaming the “War Room” the “Peace Room.”

  • The Uber news doesn’t stop there: A New York judge has decided that Uber is the employer of three Uber drivers and that the company must provide unemployment insurance for them, Dana Rubinstein reports for Politico. In her opinion, Michelle Burrowes wrote “the overriding evidence establishes that Uber exercised sufficient supervision, direction, and control” as to be considered an employer.

  • What you can do now: A new website called Political How seeks to educate and encourage people new to the political process by creating how-to videos showing real interactions with political representatives, like phone calls to Congress or attending a town hall. The first videos up depict New Yorkers calling their State Senators to ask them to withhold consent on a vote for the American Health Care Act. If you’re already a seasoned civic participant, they’re looking for people to submit footage of their own phone calls, town halls, etc. Learn more about how to submit here. And call your representatives!

  • The CEOs of at least six technology companies are scheduled to meet with Donald Trump at the White House on Monday, including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Apple’s Tim Cook, Oracle’s Safra Catz, IBM’s Ginny Rometty, and Google’s Eric Schmidt. Tech Solidarity is calling for a boycott. They are asking employees of large tech companies to email their CEOs tonight and ask them to boycott the meeting, and to encourage coworkers to do the same; if the CEO was invited but is not attending, they ask that you email them to show support.