Vast Networks

The NRA's grassroots support network; civic tech's inclusion problem; and more.


  • Writing for Governing, Harvard Kennedy School professor Stephen Goldsmith addresses civic tech’s inclusion problem

  • Flippable has announced that they got a new website and released a new set of tools for political organizers.

  • Logs of the Trump administration Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) hotline show that it is being used as a tool to settle petty grievances between neighbors and family members, Daniel Rivero and Brendan O’Connor report for Splinter News. “The logs—hundreds of which were available for download on the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement web site despite containing extremely sensitive personal information—call to mind the efforts of closed societies like East Germany or Cuba to cultivate vast networks of informants and an atmosphere of fear and suspicion,” Rivero and O’Connor write. The logs recorded messages from stepfathers, daughters-in-law, ex-husbands, and grandmothers ratting on their close acquaintances, often explicitly for some kind of revenge.

  • Although most people assume the NRA’s power comes from money, but Hahrie Han writes in The New York Times that the organization has also built up a network of grassroots support that is essential to its success. This network is strong because it is about identity, not ideas, and has a foundation of shared interests and shared spaces in the form of gun clubs. Gun-control advocates don’t connect with their supporters in the same way. “These organizations asked me for money and sent me links for places to send emails or make phone calls,” Han writes of several gun-control organizations. “But none introduced me to anyone else in the organization or invited me to strategize about what I could do. Instead, I felt like a prop in a game under their control. I eventually asked to be taken off their lists.”

  • “What can a government realistically do about a problem like Facebook?” writes John Herrman in The New York Times magazine, reflecting on the possibility that Facebook and its ilk are too big to regulate. “It’s very likely that any approach to regulating Facebook will look more like diplomacy than anything else — a cautious search for détente with an institution that ultimately gets to set its own laws, whether a government likes it or not.”

  • A WeWork competitor is accusing the co-working company of corporate espionage, Daniel Geiger reports for Crain’s New York.

  • In the final part of a three-part series on building healthy choices into our operating systems, Steve Downs points to a few companies that are trying to make making healthy choices easier, although the real impact of the individual companies or practices may be up for debate. For example, regarding the “athleisure” trend

  • Media matters: A new database created by Jay Rosen and Gonzalo Del Peon shows how different news organizations operate membership models in the race to sustainable news. Something interesting: the “thick” and “thin” engagement metrics used in civic tech are used here too, to distinguish between mostly donation-based membership and memberships that elicit feedback, participation, and knowledge-sharing.

  • Dan Diamond and Rachana Pradhan share the lengths they went to to find Tom Price’s private jets, a months-long odyssey that had them cozying up to sources and staking out airplanes so they could confirm their suspicions with their own eyes.

  • Moment of zen: Rex says: I speak for the U.S.A.