Transparently False

Facebook sued for violating Fair Housing Act; on Italy's Five Star Movement; and more.


  • “To add a citizenship question runs directly counter to the constitutional duty on the Census Bureau to ensure a count that includes everyone, regardless of citizenship status,” writes David Gans in a brief for the Constitutional Accountability Center. “Concerns about the abuse of Census data are not new. Throughout history, misuse of Census data has led to gross constitutional abuses. During World War II, despite existing federal confidentiality protections, the Census Bureau shared demographic information about Japanese Americans with the military, which led to the forced round-up and internment of Japanese Americans.”

    “Fears that citizenship data might be abused are particularly intense right now, both because of the charged political climate on immigration and because there is simply no good reason for asking all persons to divulge their citizenship status as part of the Census. The Department of Justice urges that a citizenship question is necessary to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act, but this is transparently false. Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, the census form sent to all residents has never asked the American people to report their citizenship. A mandatory question on citizenship has never been necessary to ensure robust protection for the right to vote. This is a specious justification for intimidating immigrant communities and ultimately undercutting what the Constitution mandates: a count of all the people.”

  • Fabio Chiusi reports for Slate on the rise of Italy’s Five Star Movement, and whether the trappings of direct democracy are sincere, or a farce deployed to create and maintain centralized power—party members can now be sanctioned for infractions such as “omissions that caused or risked to cause harm” to the party’s image, or for “loss of consensus,” or “hindering its political action.” As the party’s political power grows, the question becomes more urgent. (h/t Antonella Napolitano)

  • Beth Noveck writes for Forbes about the increasing number of cities creating local cryptocurrencies.

  • SeeClickFix has released a new, more efficient version of their 311 app, CEO Ben Berkowitz writes.

  • What sharing economy? In case you had any doubts as to how Uber and Lyft are impacting cities across the country, Steven Hill pulls together the evidence in a devastating report for The American Prospect.

  • Life in Facebookistan: A coalition of civil rights groups is suing Facebook for violating the Fair Housing Act by allowing advertisers to discriminate against minority users by excluding users with specific interests from seeing their ads, like English as a Second Language, or Disability.gov, Sidney Fussell reports for Gizmodo.

  • Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower Christopher Wylie testified yesterday in from the of the British House of Commons’ committee on culture that his previous employer swung the results of the Brexit vote in 2016, and even suggested that his predecessor had been murdered, Ellen Barry reports for The New York Times.

  • The suggestion to build a personality quiz in order to gain the info Cambridge Analytica needed for psychological profiling came from an employee at Palantir Technologies, the secretive tech company co-founded by Peter Thiel, Nicholas Confessore and Matthew Rosenberg report for The New York Times.

  • If leaving Facebook isn’t an option for you, consider this extension that helps prevent Facebook from tracking your activity across the internet: “When you install this extension it will delete your Facebook cookies and log you out of Facebook. The next time you visit Facebook it will open in a new blue-colored browser tab (aka “container tab”). In that tab you can login to Facebook and use it like you normally would. If you click on a non-Facebook link or navigate to a non-Facebook website in the URL bar, these pages will load outside of the container.”

  • “For every article about Facebook’s creepy stalker behavior, thousands of other companies are breathing a collective sigh of relief that it’s Facebook and not them in the spotlight,” Bruce Schneier writes for CNN. “Because while Facebook is one of the biggest players in this space, there are thousands of other companies that spy on and manipulate us for profit.”

  • Opportunity: Brave New Films is looking for a new outreach director to help expand free screenings to schools and advocacy groups. Learn more and apply here.

  • Moment of zen: Seeking Good Attorney in D.C.