Maker’s Mark

Meet the Digital Platform Act; privacy as PR; Buttigieg's booty; and much more.


  • This is civic tech: Here’s Code for America’s 2018 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Report. Worth noting: 40% of CFA’s team identify as people of color, as compared to 39% in the last US census. It’s a women-led organization, and women are a majority at all levels of the organization and the board. And 47.1% of its Engineering team members identify as as women or non-binary, and 29.4% as people of color, far outpacing trends in the tech industry. (Women are a strong majority of the rest of its staff.)

  • Hot off the presses: Harold Feld, one of the sharpest minds in public interest tech policy, has published a new book on regulating digital platforms called The Case For The Digital Platform Act: Market Structure and Regulation of Digital Platforms. It’s a partnership of his longtime employer Public Knowledge and the Roosevelt Institute, and it’s available for free download at DigitalPlatformAct.com. Feld makes a strong case for regulating big platforms for affirmative public interest goals, and also advances a promising way to judge whether a platform is too dominant (and therefore should be subject to more stringent oversight).

  • Here’s a blog post from Feld that should give you a good sense of what you’ll get from reading the book. And here’s a bit of the book’s backstory, in case you’re curious.

  • Reporting for Civicist from Paris, Tatiana de Feraudy takes a close look at France’s Great Debate, which gathered nearly two million contributions from 500,000 participants as part of President Emmanuel Macron’s effort to deal with the ongoing Yellow Vests protests. She says that while there were many problems with the format of the grand experiment, it has had a big impact on civic tech in France.

  • Here are the 20 organizations sharing $25 million in grants and other support from Google.org as part of its AI for Social Good program.

  • Apply: The Roddenberry Foundation is looking for its next round of fellows—activists, community leaders and organizers who each receive $50,000 to take an existing initiative to the next level and amplify its impact or to launch a new initiative.

  • This is not civic tech: Neighborhood reporting apps like NextDoor, Citizen and Neighbors (Amazon Ring’s new addition to the mix) are among the most downloaded social and news apps in the US right now, and in Vox Rani Molla explains why “fear-based social media” is a very bad thing. “These apps have become popular because of — and have aggravated — the false sense that danger is on the rise,” he writes, noting also that they “foment fear around crime, which feeds into existing biases and racism and largely reinforces stereotypes around skin color.”

  • Life in Facebookistan: Chris Hughes, one of Facebook’s original co-founders, has a blockbuster of an oped in today’s New York Times explaining and bemoaning the company’s power and calling for its breakup. Hughes left the company a decade ago and sold his sliver of stock in 2012, but — at least until this piece — he has retained a personal friendship with the person he calls “Mark” in this piece. Which leads to sentences like “The most problematic aspect of Facebook’s power is Mark’s unilateral control over speech. There is no precedent for his ability to monitor, organize and even censor the conversations of two billion people.” Read the whole thing.

  • If you want to read just one thing on the new privacy wars between the Big Tech platforms, make it Julia Carrie Wong‘s column in The Guardian. The tl/dr version: Beware of privacy as PR.

  • Tech and politics: Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the toast of Silicon Valley donors, Recode’s Theodore Schleifer reports. He’s friends with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who was introduced to him by Joe Green, last seen not succeeding as the head of Zuck-funded immigration reform group FWD.us. Per Schleifer’s report, Green is just one of several well-connected techies who have helped squire Buttigieg around the Valley. It’s hard to tell from the story whether Democratic donors in SV are glomming onto Buttigieg because they like his tech-friendly politics, which remind me of Obama’s coziness with Big Tech, or simply because he’s a shiny new bauble to display to their peers.

  • BuzzFeed News political campaign reporter Ruby Cramer wants to know “Does any presidential campaign have a TikTok strategy?” and while the replies to her query are great, I for one am still waiting to see the campaigns’ Meerkat strategy.

  • EveryAction, the nonprofit arm of NGP VAN, has acquired We Also Walk Dogs and its product ActionKit, Stu Trevelyan announced yesterday. He notes that “Clients of both companies will benefit in many ways, including by expanding the network effect of each company’s one-click contributions and form pre-filling features, leading to higher conversion rates and more engagement for nonprofits.”

  • Related: On Medium, Brian Young, the CEO of Action Network, salutes EveryAction for the acquisition, and explains why his organization is a nonprofit and thus not driven by corporate investors.

  • Remember the sharing economy? Uber and Lyft drivers went on strike yesterday in five major American cities, and this story by April Glaser in Slate does a good job of explaining why they’re angry and organizing.

  • Long Island City is experiencing a real estate boom, even though Amazon canceled its planned HQ2 earlier this year, Erica Pandey reports for Axios. Maybe Amazon should cancel more projects? Local neighborhood activists are still worried about what will happen to people in low-income housing.

You are reading First Post, a twice-a-week digest of news and analysis of the world of civic tech, brought to you by Civic Hall, NYC’s community center for civic tech. If you are reading this because someone forwarded it to you, please consider joining Civic Hall as a network member and supporting our work or sign up to our newsletter to stay connected with the #CivicTech community.