People Speed

Councilmatic in L.A.; why you should be worried about the 2020 Census; and more.


  • This is civic tech: The Omidyar Network’s Felipe Estefan explains why they invested in the Brazilian civic tech startup Colab, a platform that connects citizens to government on issues from the mundane (potholes—what else) to the deadly serious (Estefan writes that the platform has been used to manage the response to the Zika outbreak).

  • The city council tracking tool Councilmatic has launched in Los Angeles…but for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, not the city council, DataMade’s Regina Compton reports. “Due to the uniqueness of Metro, we modified Councilmatic to suit a Los-Angeles-specific constellation of needs,” Compton writes. “Happily, LA Metro Councilmatic spotlights the adaptability of the Councilmatic platform: it can be reshaped and freshly formed to serve government municipalities other than city council.”

  • This is Count Love: a site that aggregates info about demonstrations and protests around the country by crawling local newspaper and television sites nightly.

  • Over at the Gender Avenger blog, our Micah Sifry speaks to Jen Vento about making Personal Democracy Forum a more inclusive and gender-balanced event.

  • Alec Ross, Hillary Clinton’s senior innovation advisor during her time as Secretary of State, is running for the governor of Maryland in 2018—and part of his platform includes a plan to spend $10 million on training computer science teachers for Maryland schools, and have computer science courses in all K-12 schools by 2022, Issie Lapowsky reports for Wired. (Try not to roll your eyes at the headline, “One Candidate’s Plan to Resist Trump By Teaching Kids To Code”—although it might be tempting.)

  • Also, ICYMI (I did), apparently Y Combinator’s Sam Altman is considering a run for California governor? Tess Townsend reports for Recode.

  • “It’s incredibly hurtful, and, I think, false for anyone to claim that I don’t care,” Elon Musk tells The Guardian’s Julia Carrie Wong, responding to Tesla worker’s stories of grueling workplace conditions, long hours, and serious work-related injuries. As hurtful as the herniated disks Tesla worker Michael Sanchez attributes to repetitive movement on the assembly line? Hard to tell. Wong reports that the rate of injuries and illnesses at Tesla was above industry average from 2013 to 2016. Workers describe their colleagues collapsing on the ground midshift, and being told to walk around while they’re still lying on the floor.

    “We’re a money-losing company,” Musk said in his defense. “This is not some situation where, for example, we are just greedy capitalists who decided to skimp on safety in order to have more profits and dividends and that kind of thing. It’s just a question of how much money we lose. And how do we survive? How do we not die and have everyone lose their jobs?” Lol: that’s funny, because Musk’s eventual goal is full automation. “You really can’t have people in the production line itself,” he said during an earnings call last year. “Otherwise you’ll automatically drop to people speed.”

  • Tech companies should speak out as a group in defense of refugees, and not just high-skilled immigrants, Mark Latonero argues in this article for the Harvard Business Review.

  • Earlier this month, Ken Schwencke reported for ProPublica that internet company Cloudflare was passing on the names and email addresses of individuals who complained about the content of websites to the website owners—like the owners of the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer, who then turned around and encouraged the harassment of the complaining individuals.

    Yesterday, AccessNow’s Deji Olukotun, Peter Micek, and Drew Mitnick published a post diving into the background and legal context of the story and how Cloudfare responded to the allegations—they created a new abuse report form, and allow individuals to redact their name and contact info before passing along the complaint to website owners. They also make recommendations for additional steps Cloudfare should take to avoid similar problems in the future.

  • Freedom of the Press: A journalist says he manhandled by security guards at the Federal Communications Commission when he tried to ask FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly a question one-on-one after a news conference, Derek Hawkins reports for The New York Times. “I could not have been less threatening or more polite,” the journalist John Donnelly said. “There is no justification for using force in such a situation.”

  • A Pulitzer prize-winning journalist was temporarily locked out of his Facebook account for alleging corruption by the prime minister of Malta and his friends, The Guardian reports

  • Life in Facebookistan: Online publishers are going to have to tweak their headline writing guidelines again, now that Facebook is punishing stories with “clickbait” headlines—or headlines that withhold or exaggerate information, Sean Gallagher reports for Ars Technica.

  • What sharing economy? Uber tracks more than 500 pieces of information for each user, Kashmir Hill reports for Gizmodo. “The near-endless cascade of information demonstrates the immense and granular effort Uber puts into logging every aspect of its interactions with customers—not just when you created your account, but where you were when you created your account (for Spangenberg, an office on Battery Street in downtown San Francisco), and how quickly after creating that account you first called an Uber, and how long your account has been active, down to the second,” Hill writes. The document was only briefly available publicly—through a wrongful-termination lawsuit brought by a former employee—because Uber lawyers argued the information was “confidential, proprietary, and private” and should be sealed.

  • Trump watch: It’s not too early to start worrying about the 2020 Census, Cathy O’Neil argues in a new column for Bloomberg. “But what happens if certain groups, such as minorities, are systematically miscounted?” she asks. “That’s a legitimate concern as the country approaches its next decennial census, which will be used to decide such important issues as how many representatives individual states get in Congress.”

  • A new video recording shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan watching as his security team charged a group of protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence on Tuesday, Nicholas Fando reports for The New York Times. Although the State Department condemned the violence the White House has remained silent.

  • Sweden has dropped the rape investigation of Julian Assange, Christina Anderson and Dan Bilefsky report for The New York Times. “Marianne Ny, the chief prosecutor in Sweden, made clear that the authorities were not pronouncing Mr. Assange innocent,” they write. “’I can conclude, based on the evidence, that probable cause for this crime still exists,’ she said. Instead, she said, prosecutors felt that they had no choice but to abandon the investigation because they had concluded that Ecuador would not cooperate, and because all other possibilities had been exhausted.”

  • And Anthony Weiner has pleaded guilty to sexting—”transferring obscene material to”—a minor, Benjamin Weiser and William K. Rashbaum report for The New York Times.

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