Warning Signs

The sharing economy is driving livery drivers to the brink; Jim Carrey's done with Facebook; and more.


  • This is civic tech: Apropos of yesterday’s note about Councilmember Brad Landers call for a NYC Office of Civic Engagement, BetaNYC—the city’s long-standing civic hacking organization—reminds us that its Civic Innovation Lab and Fellows program is doing vital work on that front, helping the city’s 59 community boards up their digital literacy.

  • To celebrate its fifth birthday, Code for Philly crowdsourced a timeline of civic tech’s development in Philadelphia, Julia Zeglen reports for Generocity.

  • Media startup incubator Matter is starting local news bootcamps in New York, Missouri, Berkeley and Georgia, with the support for Google News Lab. Apply here.

  • What sharing economy? A New York City livery driver in his early 60s, Doug Schifter, killed himself on Monday in front of City Hall, citing in a Facebook post beforehand the decline of his chosen livelihood—he sometimes had to work 100-120 hours a week to survive after getting by on roughly 40 hours decades ago—and blaming politicians for flooding the streets with “unlimited cars.” New York Times columnist Ginia Bellafante connects the dots for us, noting that for decades there were no more than 12,000-13,000 taxis in New York, but with the rise of ride-hailing services that market has been transformed. Now there are more than 100,000 cars for hire, 2/3 of them affiliated with Uber, she notes, and the head of the NY Taxi Workers Alliance, Bhairavi Desai, is warning that many of her members are dealing with homelessness and depression.

  • Two-thirds of Airbnb’s $93 million profit in 2017 was generated by an internal hedge fund run by the company’s chief financial officer, Olivia Zaleski and Eric Newcomer report for Skift, in the course of describing the efforts by company founder and CEO Brain Chesky to keep the company private.

  • Trump watch: President Trump has told the military: “I want a parade like the one in France,” Greg Jaffe and Philip Rucker report for The Washington Post. The brass is treating it as a serious request.

  • Trump’s restrictive and racially biased immigration plans, which would cut legal immigration rates substantially, could delay the date that white Americans become a minority by one to five years, Jeff Stein and Andrew Van Dam report for The Washington Post.

  • Here’s the latest on Russian efforts to play hashtag games with American politics, courtesy of Jason Schwartz of Politico.

  • Russian trolls posing as black activists generated hundreds of thousands on Tumblr during election 2016, backing Bernie Sanders and trashing Hillary Clinton, Craig Silverman and Jonathan Albright report for BuzzFeed. So far, Tumblr is not responding to questions about the troll accounts. And they are still active—one that was linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency now is posting pro-Palestine content, they report.

  • Junk news is overwhelmingly consumed and shared by rightwing social network users, the Oxford-based Computational Propaganda Project has found in a new study.

  • Life inside Facebookistan: For six months in the middle of 2017, pollster Tavis McGinn worked full-time tracking public perceptions of company CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Casey Newton reports for The Verge. “It was a very unusual role, McGinn says. “It was my job to do surveys and focus groups globally to understand why people like Mark Zuckerberg, whether they think they can trust him, and whether they’ve even heard of him. Not just him in the abstract, but do people like Mark’s speeches? Do they like his interviews with the press? Do people like his posts on Facebook? It’s a bit like a political campaign, in the sense that you’re constantly measuring how every piece of communication lands. If Mark’s doing a barbecue in his backyard and he hops on Facebook Live, how do people respond to that?” Similar research was also done on COO Sheryl Sandberg. McGinn quit the job after he decided that he couldn’t change the way the company does business. I couldn’t change the values. I couldn’t change the culture. I was probably far too optimistic.” (Recall that Zuckerberg also has a full-time team of about a dozen—content moderators, photographers, video producers—who are all responsible for maintaining his personal Facebook page).

  • Actor Jim Carrey tweets that he is selling his Facebook stock and deleting his page “because @facebook profited from Russian interference in our elections and they’re still not doing enough to stop it. I encourage all other investors who care about our future to do the same. #unfriendfacebook”