Mini-Performances

Former intel heads call Trump "a peril"; the problem with The New York Times' social guidelines; and more.


  • Rebellion in Facebookistan? Roger McNamee, one of the early investors in Facebook and Google, writes for the Guardian that “society regulates products that create addiction [and] we have laws to prevent discrimination and election manipulation,” and that “the time has come” to apply them to those companies.

  • “What we need is a ‘Union of Concerned Technologists’.” tweets Tristan Harris, “to make it safe for others to speak out. This isn’t about criticizing the tech industry, it’s about urgent need to reform the way the attention economy works. And migrating away from ‘attention’ as currency of success…”

  • Hossein Derakhshan and Claire Wardle explain why “social news is bad for democracy.” The simple explanation: sharing news has become a performance. They write: “When we try to understand why people are sharing misleading, manipulated and fabricated information, we need to appreciate that those shares and retweets are playing an incredibly important function, which is less about their veracity or truth. The act of sharing is often about signaling to others that we agree with the sentiment of the message, or that even if we don’t agree, we recognize it as important and worth paying attention to. We want to feel connected to others, and these mini-performances allow us to do that.”

  • Meet Renee DiResta, one of several digital experts who have been tracking the rise of online disinformation for years, and who Congress is now listening to, as Sheera Frankel reports for The New York Times.

  • Opposition watch: On Twitter, women are posting pictures of themselves at the age of 14, using the hashtag #MeAt14, a campaign initiated by activist Lizz Winstead to make clear that GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore’s relationships with girls could not have been consensual.

  • Related: Make plenty of time to read Rebecca Traister’s powerful meditation on “The Post-Weinstein Reckoning.”

  • Are you a “5+ Activist”? That’s what Sam Drzymala, veteran Democratic digital strategist, calls the thousands of volunteers who have flooded into grassroots electoral organizing in the last year, spending five or more hours a week organizing, learning and reinventing the ropes, upending the previous staid world of party professionals. His message to the latter: “We are no longer in charge.” He adds: “With more people involved and more centers of power in our party than ever before, pursuing a ‘top-down’ leadership style based on the authority of our job title is untenable. We professionals won’t be ‘running’ anything anymore. Now, our role is to teach and help the people who are really calling the shots: Our volunteers.”

  • The former head of U.S. national intelligence James Clapper and the former CIA director John Brennan say that President Trump poses “a peril” to America because he “can be played” by Russia, Oliver Laughland reports for The Guardian.

  • Crypto-wars, continued: The NSA is struggling to recover from a leak of many of its strongest hacking tools, a breach that experts say was far worse than anything Edward Snowden uncovered, Scott Shane, Nicole Perlroth and David Sanger report for The New York Times.

  • YouTube has started automatically blocking and removing videos by the American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a “watershed” policy shift in how the site deals with such anti-Western content, Scott Shane reports for The New York Times.

  • Media matters: Press critic Jay Rosen explains why, to him, the new New York Times social media policy, which has clamped down on its staffers’ freedom to voice their opinions, marks a retreat from the fearless devotion to the truth that serious news consumers should expect from a great newspaper.

  • This is civic tech: The Omidyar Network is giving $480,000 to Social Boost, a Ukrainian tech NGO, to help fund the opening of its 1991 Civic Tech Center in Kiev, and renewing its support for the ePantswo Foundation, the Polish NGO that is our partner in the annual Personal Democracy Forum CEE.

  • Listen! Civic Hall’s first civic imagination fellow Andrew Slack has launched a podcast, Imagine Better.

  • For every additional ten nonprofit organizations focusing on crime and community life in a city with 100,000 residents, the murder rate goes down 9 percent, the violent crime rate goes down 6 percent and the property crime rate goes down 4 percent, a new study by Patrick Sharkey, Gerard Torrats-Espinosa, and Delaram Takyar finds.

  • Judy Bohl

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