Mindless

A year of Tech Solidarity; a critical look at how academia tackles tech; and more.


  • I report for Civicist on the approximate one-year anniversary of Tech Solidarity, which is trying to rouse tech workers to get politically organized. Although founder Maciej Ceglowski is frustrated with the ever-present political apathy in Silicon Valley and other tech enclaves, experienced labor organizers say they’re more optimistic, and have never seen tech workers this interested in organizing before.

  • Writing for The New York Times, Saadia Madsbjerg, the managing director of the Rockefeller Foundation, argues that companies should be taxed for using users’ personal data and the money should be used to “build a better, more equitable internet and society that benefit us all.”

  • Cathy O’Neil, the author of Weapons of Math Destruction, has hit a nerve. In response to a piece she wrote for The New York Times on how the ivory halls of academia have been neglecting technology to their peril, academics piled on in the comments to tell O’Neil how wrong she is, including Zeynep Tufekci, often by pointing to work they have done, or to other major players in the field like Data & Society. (But, as I understand it, D&S is a standalone research institute—created with funding from Microsoft and others—and exists outside the vaunted halls of academia that O’Neil is criticizing, and furthermore, its fellowship program does not provide the kind of support for sustained, independent academic work that tenured university positions would, which is what O’Neil is asking for.)

    O’Neil responded to the criticism on Twitter, writing, “To any academic working on algorithmic accountability whom I’ve offended with my NYTimes piece today: I know you’re working hard, against the odds. I’m trying to make the point that you deserve *much more support*. The tech companies are absolutely more powerful than we are.”

  • Missouri’s Attorney General has announced he is investigating whether Google has violated the state’s consumer-protection and antitrust laws, Nitasha Tiku reports for Wired.

  • Trump watch: As the federal government increases the surveillance and data-collection of non-citizens, some cities are rethinking what information about their residents they are willing to share with immigration and other federal agencies, Tanvi Misra reports for CityLab.

  • According to Jeff Sessions’ testimony yesterday, there are 27 open investigations into leaks of classified information to the press, an 800% increase, Betsy Woodruff reports for the Daily Beast.

  • Troll watch: Caleb Ecarma reports for Mediaite that an employee of the taxpayer-funded news outlet Voice of America spends work hours posting racist, sexist, homophobic garbage on reddit. The VoA reporter, Josh Fatzick, has posted things like “That’s why I have a job where I can spend most of my day making mindless Reddit comments,” and “If I were to ever be publicly connected to this account, it probably would not be good for my career.”

  • And Betsy Woodruff, Ben Collins, Spencer Ackerman, and Joseph Cox report for The Daily Beast that one of the trolls defending Roy Moore on social media stole the identity of a dead Navy SEAL.

  • To celebrate World GIS Day, Digital Democracy announced that they have received a grant of $525,000 from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation to support building the offline, participatory mapping tool Mapeo. Read more about how Mapeo has been used by indigenous communities in Ecuador here.

  • And Aditi Juneja, who spoke at PDF in June, made the Forbes’ 30 under 30 list. Read about her work on the Resistance Manual here.