Strangers

Zuckerberg tours regular America; NPR considers the alt-left; and more.


  • This is civic tech: I report for Civicist that the NYC Commission on Human Rights has partnered with the NYC data analytics team to use open data to go after discriminatory landlords.

  • KK Ottesen interviewed activists—including former PDF-speakers Alicia Garza and Ezra Levin, and Levin’s Indivisible co-founder Leah Greenberg—about what called them to action and what sustains them in their work. “The best advice I ever got as an organizer was that if you can organize your family, you’re a good organizer,” Garza shares. “So when people say, “Well, I don’t talk to my family because they’re all conservatives,” or “I don’t talk to my family because they’re racist,” I’m, like, “No, no, no; that’s exactly who you need to be talking to.” Because the only person who’s going to stop them from sending me death threats is you.”

  • Take action: Tired of merely calling your representatives? Political How has created a how-to video for participating in political sit-ins, to inspire people to take their activism to the next level. Watch here.

  • The Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund created by Reid Hoffman, Pierre Omidyar, and the Knight Foundation in January is giving a combined $7.6 million to the MIT Media Lab, Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center, and seven other research efforts, Devin Coldewey reports for TechCrunch.

  • Trump watch: Peter Stone and Greg Gordon report for McClatchy that investigators with the House and Senate Intelligence committees are looking closely at the digital side of Trump’s election campaign that was presided over by Jared Kushner for signs of collusion with Russia.

  • Media matters: If we thought fake news was a problem already, Adam Clark Estes reports for Gizmodo that spoofed lip-movements could make it a whole lot worse. “Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a method that uses machine learning to study the facial movements of Obama and then render real-looking lip movement for any piece of audio,” Estes writes. “That means they can make videos of Obama saying pretty much anything they want, in whatever setting they want. The effect works especially well when they use random audio of Obama’s voice—say, an old recording of Obama as a law student—and make it look like Obama said these things yesterday.”

  • In a thought-provoking segment, NPR’s On Point considers the “alt-left” media landscape.

  • Life in Facebookistan: The first rule of meeting Mark Zuckerberg is that you probably won’t know he’s coming, Reid Epstein and Deepa Seetharaman explain in The Wall Street Journal, reporting on Zuck’s national tour of regular America. The second rule is “If you do know he’s coming, keep it to yourself.” And the third: “Be careful what you reveal about the meeting.”

    A former Obama administration official and a former Ohio field organizer for Clinton are among those coordinating the tour, Epstein and Seetharaman reveal, but people who meet Zuck are sometimes told by the man himself, “If there are any news reporters that call you, just make sure you tell them I’m not running for president.”

  • Facebook has Meetup in its crosshairs, Alex Kantrowitz reports for BuzzFeed, but Meetup CEO Scott Heiferman has a solid user base and some new ideas to show he’s not going down without a fight.

  • Recommended long-read: Writing in the University of Virginia’s Hedgehog Review, Marc Dunkelman considers the problem of “similarly situated strangers” in modern cities, and the contradiction of the “global village” enabled by technology.

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