Dead End

The Open Data Policy Wizard; White House press correspondent boasts about trolling the media; and more.


  • Trump’s America: Customs and Border Protection agents checked the IDs of all the passengers of a domestic flight from San Francisco to JFK, Emma Whitford reports for Gothamist. CBP has since explained that they were trying to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement locate an individual who has been ordered removed based on convictions for domestic assault and driving while impaired, but the individual was not on the flight after all.

  • Resist: Tomorrow several nonprofits and grassroots activist groups including MPower Change and Drum are organizing a hackathon in Brooklyn called Hack the Ban to produce digital media tools and solutions for resisting anti-immigrant policies. Learn more and register here.

  • Mischief managed: The Sunlight Foundation has released a tool that will generate a basic open data policy for city governments or other agencies, Zack Quaintance reports for GovTech. They call it the Open Data Policy Wizard.

  • The Alexa Affair: As part of an Arkansas murder investigation, police asked Amazon to turn over the record of voice snippets collected by the digital voice assistant Alexa that night. But in a recent court filing, Amazon argued that Alexa deserves First Amendment protections, Ravi Somaiya reports for Vice.

  • Two early Uber investors, Mitch and Freada Kapor, wrote an open letter to the company’s board and investors chastising them for failing to address well-known issues of sexism, harassment, and lack of diversity. “We are speaking up now because we are disappointed and frustrated; we feel we have hit a dead end in trying to influence the company quietly from the inside,” they write. “We are speaking out publicly, because we believe Uber’s investors and board will rightly be judged by their action or inaction. We hope our actions will help hold Uber leadership accountable, since it seems all other mechanisms have failed,” they conclude, although it is not clear to this reader what the consequences of the company ignoring their complaint would be.

  • Media matters: More than 1,250 companies have pulled their advertising dollars from the conservative news website Breitbart, after consumers and an activist group called Sleeping Giants drew their attention to ads displayed next to white nationalist, misogynistic, or homophobic content, Abha Bhattarai reports for The Washington Post.

  • Somehow I missed this February 13 story by the New York Times’ Michael Grynbaum about the Trump administration granting White House press credentials to the conservative blog, The Gateway Pundit, which has spread numerous false rumors, including the (false) story about a Washington Post journalist secretly taking photos of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s notes during his confirmation hearing. Worth noting: the correspondent granted credentials boasted that “we will be doing a little trolling of the media in general here.” Although he declined to go into details, he said “We have some pretty solid stuff planned.” Oh, joy.

  • A history project called “Last Seen: Finding Family After Slavery” is digitizing notices placed in newspapers by African-Americans after the Civil War searching for loved ones they were separated from before or during the war, Ari Shapiro and Maureen Pao reported for NPR’s Code Switch.

  • Alphabet’s technology incubator is testing a tool that uses machine learning to filter out “toxic” posts on commenting platforms, Joseph Lichterman reports for Nieman Lab.

  • Read up: UK-based innovation foundation Nesta published a new report on digital democracy by Julie Simon, Theo bass, Victoria Boelman, and Geoff Mulgan, including new tools and practices created by vTaiwan.

  • Apply: DoSomething.org is looking for a Civic Action and Campaign Lead in New York City. Learn more and apply here.

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