Ideological Certification

Firms line up to build "extreme vetting" tech; Peter Thiel quietly distances himself from Trump; and more.


  • Companies are lining up to find out how to build tech tools for President Trump’s “extreme vetting” of would-be immigrants, Sam Biddle and Spencer Woodman report for The Intercept. Their article is accompanied by photos of the sign up sheets at a recent industry day hosted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. IBM, Booz Allen Hamilton, LexisNexis, SAS, and Deloitte were among the companies represented.

    “ICE’s hope is that this privately developed software will help go far beyond matters of legality to matters of the heart,” Biddle and Woodman write. “The system must “determine and evaluate an applicant’s probability of becoming a positively contributing member of society, as well as their ability to contribute to national interests” and predict “whether an applicant intends to commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States.” Using software to this end is certainly in line with Trump’s campaign rhetoric—during a rally in Phoenix, he described how “extreme vetting” would make sure the U.S. only accepts “the right people,” using “ideological certification to make sure that those we are admitting to our country share our values and love our people.””

  • The honeymoon is over: Publicly, Peter Thiel is still Donald Trump’s man, but privately he’s been shrugging his shoulders and saying there’s a 50 percent chance his presidency ends in disaster, Ryan Mac reports for BuzzFeed.

  • Google fired the engineer who wrote the memo on Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber yesterday, Daisuke Wakabayashi reports for The New York Times.

  • This is civic tech: The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University has released a new web application that allows the public to see the number of individuals in a state, county or local community who have cases pending in immigration court. Houston, Texas, currently leads the scoreboard, but Queens (25,420) and Brooklyn (14,960) are just behind.

  • Angel Quicksey, Kaivan Shroff, and Matt Stempeck pulled together a guide to civic tech fellowships so that people in this space can find the kind of support they need. Other resources can be discovered in the constantly evolving Civic Tech Field Guide.

  • Sue-Lynn Moses reports for Inside Philanthropy on the Microsoft Philanthropies initiatives to spread internet access and “bring the power of cloud technology to serve the public good.” Microsoft recently announced the recipients of annual grants of $70,000 $150,000.

  • Media matters: BuzzFeed News used machine-learning to identify secret government surveillance planes registered under shell companies, Peter Aldhous writes for BuzzFeed. They’ve already used the information as the basis for two stories.

  • Writing in The Atlantic, former New Republic editor Franklin Foer reflects on the days that he spent rebuilding a magazine with his fellow idealist, Chris Hughes, and the dismal state of media today. “Journalism has performed so admirably in the aftermath of Trump’s victory that it has grown harder to see the profession’s underlying rot,” he writes. “Now each assignment is subjected to a cost-benefit analysis—will the article earn enough traffic to justify the investment? Sometimes the analysis is explicit and conscious, though in most cases it’s subconscious and embedded in euphemism. Either way, it’s this train of thought that leads editors to declare an idea “not worth the effort” or to worry about whether an article will “sink.” The audience for journalism may be larger than it was before, but the mind-set is smaller.” The article was adapted from Foer’s forthcoming book, World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech.

  • “I have never seen social interaction this fucked up,” one Young Adult author and former diversity advocate told Kat Rosenfield, who reported for Vulture on the toxic Twitter scene that is YA Books Twitter. Even Rosenfield got caught up in it. “It’s worth noting that my attempts to report this piece were met with intense pushback,” she writes. “Sinyard [a blogger who wrote a 9,000 word review that called a new YA novel “the most dangerous, offensive book I have ever read”] politely declined my request for an interview in what seemed like a routine exchange, but then announced on Twitter that our interaction had “scared” her, leading to backlash from community members who insisted that the as-yet-unwritten story would endanger her life. Rumors quickly spread that I had threatened or harassed Sinyard; several influential authors instructed their followers not to speak to me; and one librarian and member of the Newbery Award committee tweeted at Vulture nearly a dozen times accusing them of enabling “a washed-up YA author” engaged in “a personalized crusade” against the entire publishing community (disclosure: while freelance culture writing makes up the bulk of my work, I published a pair of young adult novels in 2012 and 2014.) With one exception, all my sources insisted on anonymity, citing fear of professional damage and abuse.”

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