Undecipherable Whorls

Upgrading SF's govtech; how Twitter is hindering the Russian investigation; and more.


  • The city of San Francisco is in the midst of a historic upgrade in government technology, Dominic Fracassa reports for the San Francisco Chronicle.

  • Boston gets a new chief digital officer from National Geographic Society, Jason Shueh reports for StateScoop.

  • Google has announced a new program called Grow With Google to help job seekers gain technological skills, Daisuke Wakabayashi reports for The New York Times. The company has also pledged $1 billion for nonprofits providing education and professional training.

  • Today’s the day: After Rose McGowan was briefly suspended from Twitter in the midst of the fallout from accusations levied against Harvey Weinstein by McGowan and many others, a number of women called for a day of protest under the hashtag #WomenBoycottTwitter, John Bonazzo reports for the Observer. Many women and (and supportive men) plan to stay away from the platform today.

  • Twitter’s policy of erasing the content of deleted tweets may be hindering the investigation into the social platform’s role in the 2016 election, Josh Meyer reports for Politico.

  • The U.K. government is considering classifying Google and Facebook as publishers to crack down on copyright infringement and the extremist content, Graham Ruddick reports for The Guardian. “We need to get the balance right so that we have a free vibrant internet that we can harness all the benefits from while protecting the intellectual property that is ultimately the thing that differentiates the United Kingdom from other parts of the world,” said culture secretary Karen Bradley. From this side of the pond it seems almost quaint to be fretting about intellectual property!

  • Life in Facebookistan: Just about every tech journalist in D.C., New York, and San Francisco has taken a swing at explaining Facebook and the election at this point, but you might want to carve out some time for Alexis C. Madrigal’s contribution for The Atlantic; it is thorough and informative. “Whatever weird thing you imagine might happen, something weirder probably did happen,” he writes. “The truth is that while many reporters knew some things that were going on on Facebook, no one knew everything that was going on on Facebook, not even Facebook. And so, during the most significant shift in the technology of politics since the television, the first draft of history is filled with undecipherable whorls and empty pages. Meanwhile, the 2018 midterms loom.”

  • Are all the think pieces in a competition to see who can go back furthest in tech history? Throw Noam Cohen’s name into the ring for his coverage of the public’s newfound awareness of the perils of technology: “Almost from its inception, the World Wide Web produced public anxiety,” he writes for The New York Times’ Sunday Review. Still, he may win for drawing our attention to words of wisdom from Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who wrote in 1998 “We expect that advertising-funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers.” Lol, Google founders, you think?

  • So many retrospectives! The New York Times doubles up on their “once good, now bad” coverage with an article by David Streitfeld that ends with the earth-shattering quote, “People are realizing that technology isn’t neutral…I used to travel to Europe to hear these fears. Now I just have to go to Sacramento.”

  • Wired’s Klint Finley points out that the tech backlash has been overstated and overblown. “Amazon, Facebook, and Google have all held steady in daily favorability polls conducted by research firm Morning Consult over the past year, through Tuesday,” he writes. “The ratings wiggle a bit from week to week, but the companies haven’t seen any decline. As of Thursday, 88 percent of respondents view Google favorably, compared with only 6 percent who hold a negative view. Morning Consult calls this a “net favorability” of 82 percent. By the same measure, Amazon is at 77 percent, and Facebook sits at 60 percent.”