Civic Black Holes

Looking hard at Mark Zuckerberg; civic black holes v. Amazon; and more.


  • Life in Facebookistan: Yesterday the California Review of Images and Mark Zuckerberg dropped its inaugural issue, edited by Tim Hwang, featuring essays by Dilara O’Neil on one of Zuckerberg’s earliest profile pictures, Melissa Lo on the meaning of the Instagram frame, Ethan Zuckerman on what Zuckerberg’s favorite map really shows, Tamara Shepherd on Facebook’s neocolonialism activity in India, Mél Hogan on a revealing and discomfiting interview; and Li Cornfeld on the tech industry’s appropriation of the “Fireside Chat.”

  • Facebook is desperate to convince users that its ads aren’t creepy, Cale Guthrie Weissman writes for Fast Company.

  • Media matters: Writing for the non-partisan student newsmagazine Stanford Politics, Andrew Granato chronicles the founding of the conservative publication the Stanford Review by Peter Thiel and the network of right-leaning thinkers it spawned that extends to the highest echelon of Silicon Valley. Granato found nearly 200 employment and investing relationships between Review affiliates (previous editors or staff writers, mostly) and 40 different institutions founded by Peter Thiel or Thiel’s “protégé” and Palantir co-founder, Joe Lonsdale. A thoroughly reported, riveting must-read.

  • Danny Westneat penned a column savaging the various offers cities have dangled in front of Amazon to entice the corporate behemoth to set up shop with them. I feel like much attention has already been thrown on Chicago, for offering the company the ability to keep employees’ income taxes, but Westneat writes that Fresno’s offer is even worse. “Fresno promises to funnel 85 percent of all taxes and fees generated by Amazon into a special fund,” Westneat writes. “That money would be overseen by a board, half made up of Amazon officers, half from the city. They’re supposed to spend the money on housing, roads and parks in and around Amazon.”

    When asked about the offer by the Los Angeles Times, the city’s economic-development officer said, “Rather than the money disappearing into a civic black hole, Amazon would have a say on where it will go. Not for the fire department on the fringe of town, but to enhance their own investment in Fresno.”

  • Mergers and acquisitions: Gabriela Barkho reports for Crunchbase that WeWork is set to acquire Meetup.

  • Political writer Paul Evans suggests replacing politicians and political parties with a form of direct democracy where voters decide how to spend 20 pounds a month as part of their “personal democracy budgets.”

  • Aimee Whitcroft made a case at DrupalSouth 2017 for a more open New Zealand, and highlighted a few of her favorite local civic tech projects.

  • Cyber-insecurity: Brian Krebs reports that the Department of Education website for applying for federal student aid will give up sensitive data to anyone who provides a name, a date of birth, and a social security number, including their permanent mailing address, their marital status, their driver’s license number, their parents’ incomes, and their immigration status, among other details, 108 items in all (!).

  • Sarah Jeong explains for Motherboard how to avoid digital surveillance.

  • Re: Giving Tuesday: Holly Hall reports for Inside Philanthropy on how many charity donors, trustees, and nonprofit executives sexually harass fundraisers at their organizations with few if any consequences. “The problem appears widespread, based on an Inside Philanthropy survey of development officers and fundraising consultants that generated 75 responses,” Hall writes. “A majority of respondents said they had experienced sexual harassment, with 43 reporting multiple incidents. More than half of the 13 female respondents who said they’d never personally experienced harassment knew of colleagues who had. And among seven male survey respondents who said they had never experienced sexual harassment themselves, five described unwanted solicitations involving fundraising colleagues, mostly women.”

  • The Bitcoin network now consumes more power in a single year than the whole of Ireland, Alex Hern reports for The Guardian.