Doomsday, Again

Yahoo info chief to take on cybersecurity of DNC; Dutch claims to have hacked the Russian hackers; and more.

With Micah Sifry

  • Democratic strategist Jeff Hauser writes for Rewire that what the party needs to truly renew itself is a network of thousands of “digital precinct captains.” He argues, “Traditionally, the Democratic Party has made too little use of digital tools to organize and shape how people engage with politics. Instead, its digital strategy has essentially been used as a different way to raise money. Everyone’s gotten those emails (probably too many of them) asking if you “can chip in just $5” for a given occasion. That means that the party’s digital strategy has largely been a one-way street: send out a message and judge its success by the dollars it generated. Whether someone chipped in $5 to celebrate Barack Obama’s birthday, however, gives no insight into what is resonating beyond the field of potential donors, and fails to generate stronger and more enduring ties between the party and the voters and activists affected by its policies.”

  • After cleaning up in the wake of two massive data breaches at Yahoo as head of information security, Bob Lord is going to work for the Democratic National Committee as their first-ever chief security officer, Issie Lapowsky reports for Wired.

  • An article in the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant alleges that Dutch spy agencies know about Russian interference in the 2016 election because they hacked the headquarters of the Russian hacking group Cozy Bear some years ago, and gained access to the footage from a security camera, Kevin Drum reports for Mother Jones.

  • The data-viz whizzes at FiveThirtyEight have built an interactive tool that lets you see how different kinds of congressional district maps can be drawn, either to gerrymander in advantages to one or the other major party, to maximize partisan competition, or to make districts more compact.

  • A simple text message can substantially reduce how often court warrants need to be sent to low-level offenders, and thus help reduce incarceration rates, New York City government has found. As Jason Shueh reports for Statescoop, a text-notification program coordinated by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the Office of Court Administration, the New York Police Department, the University of Chicago CrimeLab and nonprofit design firm Ideas 42 has lowered the number of failure-to-appear warrants by 26 percent.

  • Life inside Facebookistan: Chairman Zuck’s new mantra is “community” and “engagement,” so brands and their agencies are being pushed to start Groups instead of relying on Pages, where users have more of a passive role, reports Shareen Pathak for Digiday. Imagine the “community” of Instant Pot users!

  • If news sites on Facebook are going to be ranked by how much Americans trust them, Inc. columnist Geoffrey James reminds us that at a time that 75 percent of Americans can’t name the three branches of government, 72 percent believe in angels, and 64 percent can’t find North Korea on a map, relying on the wisdom of crowds to to make news judgments is a huge mistake.

  • At the World Economic Forum in Davos yesterday, George Soros called Facebook and Google “obstacles to innovation” and a “menace” to society.

  • His remarks on current threats to open societies, which included the Trump administration, overshadowed the activities of the president on the day of his arrival at Davos, John Cassidy wrote for The New Yorker.

  • Bianca Wylie delivered a warning to Toronto’s Executive Committee on Sidewalk Toronto—the massive, smart-city project by Alphabet/Google company Sidewalk Labs—about the dangers of letting technology companies set policies and precedents in the city without governance. “We haven’t had a conversation in this city about if, nevermind how, we want to use this type of tech in our city,” she writes. “So we are in a vacuum. We don’t have a smart city policy.”

  • Vijay Pande opines in The New York Times that the artificial intelligence “black box” is nothing to fear, but as Freedom of Press’s Parker Higgins points out he doesn’t appear to know what the “black box” is in computing.

  • Media matters: Clio Chang skewers Mike Allen and his “be smart” send-off upon the one year anniversary of Axios.

  • Brooklyn’s Tyler Woods reports on a new journalism project (co-founded by Civic Hall entrepreneur-in-residence David Moore) called Sludge that seeks to report on political funding, lobbyist influence, and policymaking. While the outlet will be in part funded by a blockchain-based token system, Woods notes they’ll also accept the U.S. dollar.

  • ICYMI: Google suspended their fact-checking feature earlier this month after The Daily Caller and other conservative outlets made a stink, Daniel Funke reports for Poynter.

  • This is fine: The Doomsday Clock was once again advanced forward to indicate the advanced fears of the atomic scientific community for the future of humanity, Sewell Chan reports for The New York Times. “The last time the clock was moved so close to midnight was in 1953, during the Cold War,” Chan writes. It’s now at two minutes to midnight.

    I’m old enough to remember that the Times reported “it was the closest the clock had been to midnight since 1953” a year ago almost to the day, when the atomic scientists advanced the clock from three minutes to 2.5 minutes.