November 2008

“A very special Ad Astra holiday” 2.0

For those of you who have gotten to know me over the last twelve months, Ad Astra (Analysis and Development of Awesome STRAtegies) was a grassroots strategy/culture change project I led at Microsoft.  Its positive focus, wiki-centricity, and network-oriented strategies foreshadowed a lot of work on Get FISA Right and the Voter Suppression Wiki; it’s also where I learned about advertising, something that’s proven very useful in our work with SaysMe.tv.

Wow, what a year!

Welcome to Ad Astrans and friends.  There’s a lot to catch up on and I hope that everybody uses this thread to start doing so.   If you haven’t been tracking it closely, Ad Astra-style wiki/social network activism has gone mainstream over the last six months — poke around the blog for more.  w00t w00t!  More on all that soon …

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Get FISA Right and Change.org’s Ideas site: Rupert Murdoch as civil rights sugar daddy?

Nancy Scola’s Ideas for Change, and a Roadmap in techPresident’s “Daily Digest” discusses Change.org’s Ideas for Change in America:

The social-action hub has just announced that the project now has the backing of MySpace and a broad coalition of supporting partners, including techPresident, the Sunlight Foundation, Netroots Nation, VotoLatino, GOOD Magazine, Change Congress, Campus Progress, and People for the America Way…. once the top ten ideas are identified, “we will then build a national campaign to advance each idea in Congress, marshaling the resources of Change.org, MySpace, and our dozens of partner organizations and millions of combined members.”

Sounds intriguing.  It’s hard to know just what the “national campaign” will look like, but these are certainly great groups to be partnering with. If Get FISA Right (and all the other pro-civil liberties groups out there) can get our act together and Get FISA Right, repeal the PATRIOT Act, and restore our civil liberties is one of their top 10, then we’ll recruit some significant allies.  Seems worth a try.

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Creating the future: Computers, Freedom, and Privacy 2009

CFP logo

From conference co-chairs Cindy Southworth and Jay Stanley’s Call for presentations, tutorials, and workshops:

The 19th annual Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference is now accepting proposals for panels, workshop sessions, and other events.

CFP is the leading policy conference exploring the impact of the Internet, computers and communications technologies on society. It will be taking place in June 2009, just months into a brand new U.S. administration — an exciting moment in history, as we look into the future and ask, “Where do we go from here?” For more than a decade, CFP has anticipated policy trends and issues and has shaped the public debate on the future of privacy and freedom in an ever more technology-filled world. CFP focuses on topics such as freedom of speech, privacy, intellectual property, cybersecurity, telecommunications, electronic democracy, digital rights and responsibilities, and the future of technologies and their implications.

We are requesting proposals and ideas for panels, plenaries, debates, keynote speakers, and other sessions that will address these and related topics and how we can shape public policy and the public debate on these topics as we create the future.

More information, and a link to the submission form, here.  The submission deadline is December 19 January 23.

CFP has always been a meeting ground for different perspectives: academics, privacy advocates, corporate types, government, activists, and at times hackers and students.  The quality of presentations is high, and there’s a good mix between big names and “not the usual suspects”.   Washington DC, six months into a new administration that’s being described as “the first internet presidency”, with privacy and civil liberties issues on the table … it should be a particularly good year!

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Obama and privacy: some early disquieting signs

Sarah Lai Stirland discusses Barack Obama’s Privacy Challenge on Wired’s Threat Level, focusing on the question of what’s going to happen to the huge amount of information that Obama, the Democrats, and firms like Catalist collected from during the campaign from all kinds of sources — voter files, commercial databases, phone and canvassing information, etc.

What will the Obama campaign do with all this data? It’s not saying. A query to the Obama press office last week went unanswered. Catalist, the Democratic data firm profiled earlier this year in Wired magazine, declined to answer any questions. A spokeswoman referred all queries to the Obama campaign…..

The Obama campaign’s privacy policy states that it generally doesn’t make your personal information available to anyone other than its campaign staff and “agents,” but that it might share it with organizations that have similar political goals. That’s a pretty big loophole.

Ironically, the Obama campaign’s own technology policy platform (pdf) promises the electorate that an Obama administration will “safeguard our right to privacy.”

Ironic indeed, given the Obama transition teams’s highly-invasive vetting process for job applications … more on that below.

The article also includes suggestions from privacy advocates — like my co-author on Tales from the Net:

Deborah Pierce, founder of the non-profit group Privacy Activism, suggests that the Obama campaign adopt the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development’s fair information principles.*

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#MotrinMoms: From Twitter to the NY Times in 24 hours.

Katja Presnal’s Motrin Ad Makes Moms Mad

Motrin’s “viral” video making fun of babywearing mothers — timed for the start of International Babywearing Week — has, much to their PR firms amazement, led to a backlash.  As Allyson Kaplan’s Motrin’s Pain: Viral Video Disaster on Fast Company’s Radical Tech describes:

The viral video worked in the sense that it went viral but not in the way the marketers of Motrin were hoping for. Just hours after the campaign launched moms began blogging, tweeting and posting Facebook updates about how offensive the new Motrin campaign is to mothers. Women were so angered by the video that it became one of the most popular subjects tweeted about this weekend on Twitter. Talk about a PR disaster. Over 100 blogs featured headlines such as “Motrin Makes Moms Mad” to “Motrin Giving Moms a Headache”.

Tweets on Twitter are flying across the screen by the second using the hashtag #motrinmoms. Tweets read “RU FREAKING KIDDING ME? So many things wrong with that I don’t know where to start,” said @thecouponcoup. “I am shocked by that Motrin ad. Count me in on the boycott,” said @blondeblogger. “They totally do not get us at all,” said @DealSeekingMom.

Gosh.  Who’d a thunk it?

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Join the Impact: taking social network activism (and LGBTQ rights) to the next level

Fight the H8 in SeattleKate X Messer’s Young gay marriage activist leads national protests on 365 Gay profiles Seattle Amy Balliett, who started up the Join the Impact web site after a blog post and email by her friend Willow Witte.  Amy’s 26, and her day job is as a search engine optimizer.  It’s also an excellent history of the start of the movement:

By Monday morning,* a plan had emerged: Cities around the country would organize their own efforts to coordinate a synchronized protest for Sat., Nov. 15, 10:30 a.m. PST. The movement became officially global with hits from the UK and France, and by Nov. 11, over one million visitors had come to the site.

Across the country, posts on Craigslist, bulletins on MySpace, and emails on ListServs with titles like “Meet at City Hall next weekend!” and “Upset about Prop 8? Here’s what YOU can do about it,” began to buzz with notice of the upcoming national protest.

Nancy Scola’s Once a Local Legal Battle, Is Prop 8 On Its Way to ‘Net-Fueled Cultural Moment? on techPresident puts Join the Impact in context: “Its success is reminiscent of Columbia’s anti-FARC movement launched on Facebook that spawned protests all over the world.”  Yeah, really.

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A proposal for Obama’s new CTO: Require independent review by technical experts

Yesterday my former Microsoft colleague Matt Lerner, now at FrontSeat (“software for civic life”) sent out mail about the new ObamaCTO.org site, a user-powered forum for gathering and prioritizing ideas for Obama’s new CTO.  Anybody can register, vote on ideas, or submit your own; in a twist from digg-style rating, each person is limited to ten votes, and you can apply up to three on any given topic.  Unsurprisingly, I immediately voted for Ensure reliable & trustworthy election technologies.🙂

The site’s very well done, powered by UserVoice, with a straighforward interface.  Micah Sifry’s Never Mind Who; What Should S/he Do? on techPresident has more details on this site (as well as a new report on the role of the CTO from the 21st Century Right to Know Project).

And far be it from me to pass an opportunity for grassroots activism by.  Here’s my submission:

Require independent review of projects by technical experts

Over the last 8 years, many governmental projects have failed to take into account basic principles of systems and software engineering, design, computer security, and privacy.  The REAL ID proposal, for example, stored personal data in unencrypted form, relied on databases which didn’t yet exist, and ignored the questions of false positives due to inaccurate data.  Independent review by experts can detect these issues early in the process, which either gives time for them to be addressed or allows the project to be rethought far more cheaply.

If you think it’s reasonable, please vote it up!

jon

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Online activism in response to anti-LGBTQ propositions

There’s a huge amount of activism going on in response to Prop 8 in California and the other anti-LGBTQ state propositions that passed.  A few I know about:

I have no idea whether these groups are working together yet, at least at the level of coordinating strategy and avoiding duplication of effort … hopefully they will be soon.

Please get involved with the ones you find most promising — and invite your friends!

Also, I’m sure there are a ton of other efforts out there … if you know of others, please add them in comments.

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Petitions are soooooo 20th century

I set up a petition here, and I’ll be sending the comments onward to John Podesta and Michael Strautmanis of the Obama transition team.

— Matt Stoller, Larry Summers At Treasury: A Fox in the Henhouse, OpenLeft

The first two replies to Matt’s post were

JoelN: Is it still possible to start new ‘MyBO’ groups?

Oly: I would like to see the netroots take up the anti-Summers cause as we took up the anti-Bayh cause.

When I made a similar suggestion later on Thursday in another thread, Matt responded by banning me.    Continue Reading »

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Notes from underground: the weekend after

psymbolic flyer

Psymbolic 4, at the Gingerbread House in SF.  Liam Shy, Dr. Spook, Predators (with their CD as a bonus) … it had been a long week so we left at about 3 a.m. and missed the last few DJs, but a fine night nonetheless.  As we said our goodbyes to Spook on the way out, he commented that it was a happy crowd.   Gee, I wonder why?

A few months ago Amy Alexander had said to me that if Obama won, there would be a huge mental sigh of relief across the country.  Indeed.

And what better way to relax!

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Hope 1, Fear 0: YES WE DID!

From Eluminatus:

A change is coming

Why be shrunk by fear when you can choose hope?
Why be manipulated by hate when you can choose desire?
Why settle for singularity when you can have multiplicity?

Control is an illusion and influence is possible.
Look for meta-level solutions.
Avoid false dualities.
Change is performative.

Worship the anomaly.

(March 2004 – October 2007)

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Reminder: if you’re in line when the polls close, you can vote

voter suppression wiki logoWith long lines all over the country, the Voter Suppression Wiki is issuing another action alert with a reminder that as long as you’re in line when the polls close, you can still vote.

“Voters who are in line before their local polling place closes must be allowed to vote,” says Lillie Coney of EPIC and the National Center for Voting Integrity.  “Walking toward the line at the time the polls close does not count.  If there is a line after 4PM typically it will only get longer, so it’s best to get in line now for the duration.”

While most election workers are familiar with this rule, some may not be.  Voters who encounter problems should immediately call a hotline such as 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683) or the Spanish-language 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (1-888-839-8682).

“Even if you’ve already voted, you can help get the word out by texting or phoning any friends and relatives you know who are standing in line,” says Jon Pincus, one of the organizers of the Voter Suppression Wiki.  “Bloggers and local radio stations can also help by broadcasting this information — and anybody doing last-minute get out the vote work should make sure to tell people as well.”

Poll closing times vary from state to state; http://866ourvote.org and http://govote.org offer convenient ways of checking online.  Be wary of deceptive emails and text messages claiming that the election has been continued until tomorrow — it’s not true.

“In many places, our voting system frustrates people to the point of driving them away from the process,” said Baratunde Thurston, initial creator of the wiki. “We cannot surrender to such a system, and one way to combat it is to make sure people know if you’re in line before closing time, you get to vote. It’s that simple.”

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