A bot to hunt bots; taking down sexual harassers; and more
Five women have told CNN’s Oliver Darcy that veteran journalist and political weathervane Mark Halperin harassed them while at ABC News. Halperin has admitted that his behavior was “inappropriate” and is leaving his current roles at MSNBC and NBC in response. Last year, after the New York Times reported that Donald Trump frequently treated women in degrading ways, Halperin commented on “Morning Joe” that “there’s nothing illegal, there’s nothing even kind of like beyond boorish or political incorrect” in Trump’s behavior.
Fans are calling for the revival of the TV series Good Girls Revolt, which was canceled by Amazon Studios head Roy Price (who is now another of many powerful men who has resigned his position due to credible sexual harassment allegations). The show, which depicted how women at Newsweek magazine organized to fight systematic discrimination back in 1970, is more timely than ever.
The city council of Eau Claire, Wisconsin has voted to ban breastfeeding from its dais at public meetings, formalizing a ban against one of its members, Catherine Emmanuelle, an alumnus of VoteRunLead (a Civic Hall member organization). Needless to say, VoteRunLead is fighting back.
Sometimes history moves slowly, and then it moves really fast, Tom Hayden used to say. In the American Prospect, co-editor Robert Kuttner notes that it took no time for Laurene Powell Jobs to fire longtime literary icon Leon Wieseltier from running her new ideas magazine, and argues that “this is an epochal tipping point.” Let’s hope so.
On the other hand, tech evangelist Robert Scoble has written a blog post accusing journalist Quinn Norton of physically “assaulting” him while at Tim O’Reilly’s FOO Camp—leaving out her report that she was only defending herself after he grabbed her breast and butt. Idiotically blaming the victim, he also chastises her for holding onto her allegations for more than five years. Adding insult to self-injury, he declares, in complete ignorance and stupidity: “If I were guilty of all the things said about me I would still not be in a position to have sexually harassed anyone. I don’t have employees, I don’t cut checks for investment. None of the women who came forward were ever in a position where I could make or break their careers. Sexual Harassment requires that I have such power.”
In another bad sign, some disgraced VCs who have lost jobs because of allegations of sexual harassment are joking about their changed status on LinkedIn, April Glaser reports for Slate.
Tired of Silicon Valley’s value system? Wired’s Erin Griffith reports on a billboard campaign launched by our own Andrew Rasiej, Civic Hall’s founder, that is calling on Silicon Valley workers who may be “frustrated as #%*&!” that “WeWantYouIn.NYC.” The billboard is up on Route 101 in Palo Alto, along with a companion website. Says Andrew, “I don’t want New York to be associated with Silicon Valley and the culture of Silicon Valley,” he says. “I want to make sure people know there is a very clear distinction between the way New York’s tech community thrives, acts, and thinks of itself.”
Life in Facebookistan: In Myanmar, Facebook postings are helping fuel the genocide against the Rohingya, Hannah Beech reports for The New York Times. She writes, “Social media messaging has driven much of the rage in Myanmar. Though widespread access to cellphones only started a few years ago, mobile penetration is now about 90 percent. For many people, Facebook is their only source of news, and they have little experience in sifting fake news from credible reporting.”
Trump watch: The CEO of Cambridge Analytics, Alexander Nix, reached out to WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange last year to see if he wanted help tracking down the 33,000 emails deleted by Hillary Clinton from her private server, Betsy Woodruff reports for The Daily Beast. She writes, “this would be the closest known connection between Trump’s campaign and Assange.” Assange has confirmed the approach but says he rejected it.
Media matters: Twitter’s plan to share more information with users about who is buying ads on the site and how they are being targeted won’t do enough to fix the platform’s invidious impact on the public arena, April Glaser writes in Slate. “Until Twitter takes an even more active and explicit role in fighting the many ways malicious actors attempt to manipulate voters using its platform—including fighting its bot infestation—transparency alone isn’t nearly good enough.”
NPR’s new personalization engine, NPR One, can determine who heard an original report using its app and then email a correction to those listeners, if needed, Adrienne Lawrence reports for Nieman Reports.
On Twitter, Christopher Mims, the Wall Street Journal’s tech columnist, comments, “NPR can notify individual users when they heard wrong information but Facebook has no plans to let you know if you were hit by Russian ops.”
Quartz has built a bot that hunts bots. Useful!
Annals of dark money: Someone gave a single check for $17.9 million to a conservative nonprofit organization, the Judicial Crisis Network, which then spent $7 million to block President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, Maplight.org’s Margaret Sessa-Hawkins and Andrew Perez report. Thank you, Citizens United!
Internet of Shit: Moving further into the home, Amazon has unveiled “Amazon Key,” a new service that will allow its couriers to open your front door to deliver their packages. It comes with a webcam that records the transaction, and sends users a short video to confirm the drop-off. I’m sure there’s nothing that can go wrong with giving Amazon a connected webcam in your home.
Data apps are getting brutally effective at understanding people, as machine learning tools get more accurate and accessible, Dale Markowitz reports for Gizmodo.
The Trump Administration has released a policy guidance seeking to make the FAA speed up its approval process for the commercial use of drones, Tony Romm reports for Recode.
This is civic tech: Police and case workers in West Sacramento have started using a platform called Outreach Grid to improve how they help homeless people, Zack Quaintance reports for Techwire. The platform, which was developed as part of the city’s Startup in Residence program, can map homeless encampments, consolidates client info from multiple agencies and customizes intake forms based on needs.
“A lot of civil society organizations have a secret. Their tech projects are failing.” That’s the top line finding of a new research study by Engine Room for All Voices Count that looked at 70 reports from 2013-17 on how organizations that AVC funded are using tech for transparency and accountability. (Could it be that All Voices Count funded the wrong projects?)
Food for thought: Historian Fred Turner explains why decentralized media can be an ally of charismatic authoritarians, or, more plainly, how and why Trump mastered Twitter.