Tender Age

Horror after horror at the US-Mexico border; reflecting on #PDF18; and more.


  • This is civic tech: Yours truly reports from a two-day training in the vTaiwan open consultation model that took place last week here in New York City. Here’s a taste: “This scrappy open source community of coders, organizers and govies has figured out something really exciting: it’s possible to radically transform how government listens to the public and how members of the public listen to each other as they go about making their concerns known to government.”

  • Civic Hall Toronto’s Shea Sinnott offers three reflections on what she learned from attending Personal Democracy Forum 2018. Here’s her first takeaway: “Don’t forget about the ‘civic’ in civic tech.”

  • Here’s an extensive report (in Italian, but Google Translate helps) by PDF International Fellow and journalist Fabio Chiusi on the themes of the conference and how they illustrate the changing position on tech in society.

  • Fireside21 and the OpenGov Foundation have launched Article One, a constituent engagement tool that converts every phone call into actionable data, saving congressional offices the time and hassle of having to listen to and log each voicemail they receive.

  • Tech and politics: Tech giant Microsoft is being buffeted by criticism from employees upset about services the company has been providing to ICE through its Azure platform. Though the company denies doing so, a blog post it posted in January announced that it was helping ICE with “could-based identify and access” as well as help “accelerating facial recognition and identification,” Levi Sumagaysay reports for the San Jose Mercury News.

  • More than 100 Microsoft employees posted an open letter addressed to CEO Satya Nadella on an internal company message board, asking the company to stop working with ICE, Sheera Frankel reports for The New York Times. Other tech executives expressed opposition to the forced separation policy, including Tim Cook of Apple, Sundar Pichai of Google, and Elon Musk of Tesla, she reports.

  • The ACLU is trying to put renewed pressure on Amazon to stop selling a facial recognition software tool called Rekognition to police and government agencies in light of the latest developments.

  • A Facebook-based fundraiser by a San Francisco couple seeking to raise $1500 to help one migrant parent in need of a bail bond had raised more than $5 million from 100,000+ donors by Tuesday morning, Darlena Cunha and Avi Selk report for The Washington Post. RAICES, the nonprofit benefiting from all these donations, said “this is our entire annual budget in several days.”

  • The State Department’s “Family Travel” Q&A on Facebook Live did not go well yesterday, with many questions from potential foreign tourists dripping acid. Here’s one example: “Do you recommend cage training for children to get them used to arriving in the US? How long should I leave them alone in a cage for to get them used to being imprisoned alone?”

  • Clarification: In yesterday’s First Post, I quoted immigration lawyer R. Andrew Free, who criticized the Obama administration for its policy of using family detention to try to deter immigrant asylum seekers from coming to the United States. That policy was indeed developed and defended by Obama, but not Trump’s policy of forced separations of children from their families, which is also imagined to be a deterrent.

  • That said, the problem of families being broken apart by immigration enforcement did not start with Trump, as this report by Race Forward from 2011 makes clear. Nor were Obama’s family detention centers beacons of humanity, as this New York Times magazine story from 2015 by Wil Hylton makes clear.

  • Nearly half of the 20,000 unaccompanied children facing deportation hearings between July 2014 and December 2015 had no attorney, according to Justice Department figures, Jerry Markon reported for the Washington Post back in 2016.

  • Between 2014 and 2018, of the $3.4 billion the Office of Refugee Resettlement paid private companies to house migrant children, 44% went to private companies facing serious allegations of child mistreatment, in some cases leading to deaths, Aura Bogado, Patrick Michels, Vanessa Swales and Edgar Walters report for RevealNews.

  • The AP reports that babies and other young children forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border are being sent to at least three “tender age” shelters in South Texas. “Lawyers and medical providers who have visited the Rio Grande Valley shelters described play rooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis.”

  • Protesters in Portland, Oregon blockaded an ICE detention center nonstop starting late Sunday, causing employees inside to plead for help to “go home to their families,” Arun Gupta reports for Raw Story.

  • Life in Facebookistan: Ashkan Soltani, a former CTO for the Federal Trade Commission, testified before Congress yesterday that he believed Facebook had violated it 2011 privacy consent decree, Julia Carrie Wong reports for the Guardian. The company could face huge fines if the agency agrees.

  • Shades of what Cambridge Analytica did with Facebook user data: AT&T, Spring and Verizon say they are terminating location data sharing agreements that had allowed third-parties to get real-time data on their customers locations, Brian Krebs reports. A month ago, Krebs reported on the research by a Carnegie Mellon University PhD student who had found that one such third-party company, LocationSmart, was offering a try-before-you-buy demo of its technology that allowed real-time lookups from anyone on anyone’s mobile device.

  • Hiroko Tabuchi reports for The New York Times on how a data targeting service built by the Koch brothers, i360, is being used to help them zero in on voters who will help them fight local public transit ballot proposals.

  • Your moment of zen: Rahul Bhargava of MIT Center for Civic Media built OurCup.info to give American who don’t know what teams to root for in the World Cup the ability to see what their immigrant neighbors are probably rooting for and join in.