Voter Confidence

Accountability for algorithms; computer scientists ask for election recount in three states; and more.


  • A number of respected computer scientists and election lawyers have recommended that Hillary Clinton and her campaign ask for a recount in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, where they believe electronic-voting machines might have been hacked, Gabriel Sherman reports for New York magazine. One of the computer scientists, J. Alex Halderman, has elaborated on his concerns in a Medium post, writing that he didn’t *really* think the election was hacked—polling was probably just really off—but that an audit would give voters confidence in the results.

  • “We can’t afford to lose polling altogether,” writes Mary Madden, a researcher at Data & Society. “Yes, we need a serious reckoning to deeply understand what went wrong. And yes, we need to acknowledge uncertainty—particularly in the “likely voter” model—which most pundits and researchers were simply unwilling to do. But a world without election polling is a world where the issues that matter most to marginalized communities may never rise to the top. It’s a world where abuses and anxieties and fundamental demographic shifts that affect how we distribute resources won’t be measured. And a world without trust in any kind of polling is one that a post-truth presidential administration would most certainly welcome.”

  • Ushahidi first planned to just track voter suppression, intimidation, and other election-day problems, but since Donald Trump’s victory, they have taken on a new task: tracking post-election violence, hate speech, and harassment, Amar Toor reports for The Verge. As of Monday they had already mapped more than 300 incidents across the U.S., although that is a fraction of the 700 reports collected by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

  • The Washington Post’s media columnist Margaret Sullivan explains how to not cede control to Donald Trump in an interview, using two meetings this week as her examples.

  • Here are the highlights from Trump’s on-the-record interview with the Times, in which he responded (in his own way) to questions about nepotism and conflicts of interest and gleefully rejoiced in his triumph over Republicans who hadn’t supported him enough in the race and subsequently lost their own races. And here is the full transcript.

  • For The Intercept, Lee Fang reports on the former (very recently former) lobbyists replacing current lobbyists in the Trump transition team.

  • For four years, Stephen Bannon received a salary from the tax-exempt charity he started in Tallahassee, the Government Accountability Institute, while also acting as executive chairman of the for-profit Breitbart News Network, Robert O’Harrow Jr. reports for the Washington Post, throwing the Government Accountability Institute’s assertions to the IRS that it is an independent, nonpartisan operation into question.

  • Having two well-paying jobs must be nice. So is hearing that a stalled construction project suddenly has a green light, as Donald Trump heard about a Buenos Aires project shortly after a phone call with Argentina’s president, Max de Haldevang reports for Quartz.

  • Speaking of political conveniences: The New York City Council is considering 14 pieces of legislation that change the way the city finance board oversees elections, hoping to approve the package before the end of the year, Courtney Gross reports for NY1. Amy Loprest of the New York City Campaign Board testified that some of the legislation “would significantly weaken the CFB’s oversight of the matching funds program.” Dominic Mauro of the watchdog group Reinvent Albany said, “The package of bills being proposed amount to a huge step backwards and would greatly weaken what is considered the best campaign finance system in New York and the United States.” Gross reports that the legislation is seen as a “product of individual council members’ personal grievances with the board.”

  • The Great Facebook Wall: The social media company has developed software to suppress posts in certain geographic areas, three current or former Facebook employees told the New York Times’ Mike Isaac. Facebook, which has long eschewed the role of editor (lol), would not do the suppressing itself, but hand the power to a third party that would have full control over what did and did not appear on the platform. The tool is not currently in use nor has it been offered to authorities in China, at least to the anonymous sources’ knowledge.

  • Neerav Kingsland came up with “five ways Facebook could help make us better,” including the option to choose a more intellectually diverse News Feed, and an annual alternate-view News Feed day.

  • Catherine Crump writes in the San Francisco Chronicle’s Opinion page in support of legislation that would give residents of Palo Alto increased control over the Police Department’s acquisition and use of surveillance equipment including drones, license plate readers, and social media monitoring software, writing that citizens in the rest of the country should support similar legislation.

  • “For any algorithmic system, there needs to be a person with the authority to deal with its adverse individual or societal effects in a timely fashion,” write Nicholas Diakopoulos and Sorelle Friedler in the MIT Technology Review, just one of their suggestions for how algorithms could be held accountable.

  • Politico convened a panel on what the future of technology and innovation in government will look like in a President Trump administration, featuring Seamus Kraft, executive director and co-founder of The OpenGov Foundation, Phaedra Chrousos, chief innovation officer of Libra Group, Tony Scott, United States chief information officer, and Megan Smith, United States chief technology officer. Watch the video here.

  • David Sax writes for The New Yorker on how digital companies optimize their offices for analog space.