Crippling

Tech workers making their voices heard; weaponizing misspelled hashtags; and more.


  • This is civic tech: Here’s a great curated list from AppCityLife’s Lisa Abeyta of civic tech people to follow on Twitter, published in Inc. magazine.

  • Yesterday in San Francisco, tech workers and other activists rallied outside of Salesforce’s headquarters to press the company to end its work with the Customs and Border Patrol. (h/t Yana Calou)

  • Apply: The RadicalNetworks conference, taking place in Berlin October 19-21, has opened its call for proposals.

  • Attend: This Wednesday (tomorrow) at OpenGovHub in Washington, DC, launching a new report, Omidyar Network, GlobalGiving and Feedback Labs will ask “Under what conditions is information empowering?” You can watch online if you aren’t in DC. (h/t Jed Miller)

  • Tech and politics: Revolution Messaging, the digital political firm that helped Bernie Sanders raise more than $218 million, “is in a state of upheaval,” Ruby Cramer reports for BuzzFeed, with at least 27 employees leaving or giving notice in the last six months. Scott Goodstein, the company’s founder, recently announced that he is stepping down as CEO.

  • Life during infowar: Technologist Tim Chambers unpacks another tactic in the information warfare business—the rise of decoy hashtags. Case in point: the variety of deliberately misspelled variations on #FamiliesBelongTogether that arose in the last few weeks and then were retweeted by obvious bot accounts. See also BotSentinel.com and its list of trending topics.

  • YouTube and the Google News Initiative have announced that they are committing $25 million “to support news organizations in building sustainable video operations,” and “improving the news experience on YouTube.” That will include a number of steps to provide factual information during breaking news events.

  • Life in Facebookistan: In Europe, the GDPR is putting pressure on Facebook, which has promoted facial recognition technology as a security tool, because privacy advocates say the company is not properly getting user consent first, as Natasha Singer reports for The New York Times.

  • Turning point: If Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, is confirmed by the Senate, as is very likely, knowledgeable observers like Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman are predicting that we may see far more than the repeal of Roe v Wade and the rollback of gay rights. We may see “a sharp restriction on the government’s ability to regulate anything.” As Waldman writes:

    We could well be embarking on a new version of [the Lochner] era, in which the court’s conservatives undermine the entire structure of the regulatory state’s protection of Americans’ interests. Regulations on health insurance companies, say, to ban people from being denied coverage because of preexisting conditions? Sorry, that’s an infringement on the right of the companies to offer whatever products they want to consumers. Environmental regulations? Nope, that, too, is a restriction on economic freedom. Anti-discrimination laws? We can’t tolerate such a limit on freedom of speech and “religious liberty.” Reasonable measures to limit gun violence? No, the Second Amendment is virtually limitless. Limits on direct contributions to candidates? The court has already made a mockery of campaign finance laws meant to stop corruption, so why not just let billionaires hand politicians briefcases full of cash?

  • In 2009, Kavanaugh wrote a law review article arguing that the law shouldn’t allow civil lawsuits against a sitting president, stating “the nation certainly would have been better off if President Clinton could have focused on Osama bin Laden without being distracted by the Paula Jones sexual harassment case and its criminal investigation offshoots.” He also argued for delaying criminal investigations of the President til after he leaves office, writing, “The indictment and trail of a sitting President, moreover, would cripple the federal government, rendering it unable to function with credibility in either the international or domestic arenas. Such an outcome would ill serve the public interest, especially in times of financial or national security crisis.”

  • Judge Kavanaugh dissented in the United States Telecom Association vs FCC case, arguing, as Ian Milhiser explains in Think Progress, that “the Obama-era FCC could not act to protect net neutrality because courts must apply a strong presumption that an agency lacks the authority to regulate whenever it takes a ‘major’ policy action. Regulations that involve a great deal of money, that have a significant impact on the economy, that impact a lot of people, or that are subjects of significant attention are invalid unless Congress unambiguously gave the agency the power to act.”

  • Sludge’s Josefa Velasquez reports on the online advertising war on Facebook that has already broken out on both sides of the Supreme Court confirmation fight.