Data Selfies

How to find out what Facebook knows about you; bienvenue, Les Halles Civiques!; and more.


  • This is civic tech: A dozen city mayors led by Bill de Blasio of New York and including Ted Wheeler of Portland and Steve Adler of Austin unveiled Mayors for Net Neutrality and the Cities Open Internet Pledge, working in tandem with Free Press to build pressure to protect net neutrality. Signers of the pledge agree that their cities will only do business with “companies that do not block, throttle, or provide paid prioritization of content on sites that cities run to provide critical services and information to their residents.”

  • New York has created a single portal that makes it easier to file a freedom of information request to 50 state agencies. As Reinvent Albany, a reform group, comments, “Let’s hope the governor launches a full ‘OpenFOIL’ portal that publicly displays and tracks ‪#FOIL requests and displays responses” the way the federal portal does.”

  • NYC’s Open Data Week in review, courtesy of Colin Wood of Statescoop.

  • Yesterday, Les Halles Civiques was opened in Belleville, with Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and other local civic leaders attending. Bienvenue! It joins another cousin of ours, Civic Hall Superpublic, which is in the Voltaire district. More details here.

  • Remember Jared Kushner’s Office of American Innovation, which was launched a year ago to bring tech savvy to the Trump administration? “Over a dozen people inside or close to the White House who spoke with BuzzFeed News said they had no real idea what the Office of American Innovation was there for and couldn’t point to any major policy wins,” reports Tarini Parti. She also notes that the tiny office is losing top staff.

  • Tech and politics: Markos Moulitsas, founder of the DailyKos, is opening up access to data from his and Drew Linzer’s polling firm, Civiqs, featuring daily in-depth tracking data on a host of issues. (Note to users—a lot of the data is open, but it looks like for some of it you have to become a paying Civiqs client.)

  • Life in Facebookistan: The top reporters on Facebook, based on how much engagement they drove in February 2018, are a bunch of people most of us have never heard of, from outlets like The Onion, Truth Examiner, Today, RVCJ Media, and the Daily Wire, reports Gabriele Boland of Newswhip, a tracking site. (h/t John Herrman)

  • Want a clearer idea of what Facebook knows about you? Take a “Data Selfie,” using a free tool built by Mozilla Media Fellow Hang Do Thi Duc. Give it a week to run in the background and then see what it shows you.

  • The United Nations human rights chief says that Facebook has played a “determining role” in contributing to hate speech in Myanmar aimed at the country’s besieged Rohingya minority, according to Reuters. The UN’s Myanmar investigator went further, noting the use of the platform by ultra-nationalist Buddhists and saying, “I’m afraid Facebook has now turned into a beast, and not what it originally intended.”

  • Brave new world: Police in Lancashire County in England are starting to use Amazon’s Alexa as a crime-fighting tool, and Ava Kofman of The Intercept digs into why this worries some civil liberties experts.

  • Today’s long-read: “Social networks, no matter how big they get or how familiar they seem, are not ineluctable forces but experimental technologies built by human beings. We can tell ourselves that these human beings aren’t gatekeepers, or that they have cleansed themselves of all bias and emotion, but this would have no relation to reality.” That’s just one pearl of many in this long feature story in the New Yorker by Andrew Marantz about the efforts of Reddit, the fourth most visited site on the web, to rid itself of its toxic content.

  • This, from Reddit’s general counsel Melissa Tidwell, is encouraging: “Does free speech mean literally anyone can say anything at any time? Or is it actually more conducive to the free exchange of ideas if we create a platform where women and people of color can say what they want without thousands of people screaming, ‘Fuck you, light yourself on fire, I know where you live’? If your entire answer to that very difficult question is ‘Free speech,’ then, I’m sorry, that tells me that you’re not really paying attention.”

  • Your moment of zen: The time-lapse of Reddit Place, last year’s experiment in user-generated art, which ends Marantz’s article.