Preparatory Thoughts for “What are the Rules? Digital Media and Citizen Action in #Ferguson”, Tonight with the Illinois Humanities Council

Tonight I’m joining a discussion hosted by the Illinois Humanities Council. Here’s the framing:

Not long after protests over the shooting of Michael Brown began in Ferguson, MO, online hacktivist collective Anonymous took up the cause. Though its tactics have been polarizing – one member publicly, incorrectly identified the shooter – the group has undeniably impacted the media conversation and the real-world situation in Ferguson. As a computerized voice in a recent Anonymous YouTube post put it, “social media has changed the rules.” 

And here’s the questions— with some starter answers on my end— that will be posed tonight.

  • According to the rules of a democracy, justice is determined by the state and the media’s job is to investigate and inform the citizenry.
  • What does the work of Anonymous, and Americans’ response to it, tell us about these ever-changing rules?

The rules are not changing at all. There’s been no change to the criminal code, no usurping of institutions, and no real shift in power. We’ve seen this time and again, when the outcome of criminal cases that don’t comport with pop culture estimations of guilt or innocence.

  • What are the rules in the digital media age?

Again, the rules in the digital media age are the same as it ever was; it’s just more tools. During the OJ Simpson trial, before the dawn if the popularization of the World Wide Web, reports that he was on the redeye to Chicago from LA on the night of the murder was well-publicized immediately, based on reports from fellow passengers.

  • How should conflicts between freedom of information and privacy be handled in a world where citizens -at-large can often access information more effectively than traditional journalists?

The rules around conflicts between freedom of information and privacy are well-established in almost every forum. Actual FOIA requests are governed by applicable law, and they all have provisions with regard to privacy. These laws have led to a series of cultural expectations, like the expectation when there is a police-involved shooting, that basic facts are revealed as quickly as possible. The conflicts occur when these expectations are not met, not when more people get into the info-gathering business.

  • What are the ethical considerations under the circumstances?

There are no more greater ethical considerations under these circumstances than any other circumstance on Earth. It is better to be kind, and love one another, than not.

I look forward to our discussion this evening!

Who will watch the watchmen? Reed!

Who will watch the watchmen? Reed!


Remembering the B-Thing in Light of White Flag Brooklyn Bridge Confession

Now comes the New York Times, with word that it was German artists who removed American flags from the Brooklyn Bridge and replaced them with hand-women white ones.

But the artists, Mischa Leinkauf and Matthias Wermke, say the flags — with hand-stitched stars and stripes, all white — had nothing to do with terrorism. In a series of phone interviews, they explained that they only wanted to celebrate “the beauty of public space” and the great American bridge whose German-born engineer, John Roebling, died in 1869 on July 22, the day the white flags appeared.

That this lame commemoration lacks verve and complexity is annoying to me.

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Cool story

Capitalizing on U.S. Bombing, Kurds Retake Iraqi Towns

Pesh merga forces retook Gwer around midday, pushing through the center and methodically searching for snipers, stragglers and booby traps that ISIS might have left behind. The main threat turned out to be north of the town. In three spots a mile apart, ISIS had concealed trucks of a type used by the Iraqi Army, mounted with machine guns.

According to pesh merga accounts, when those trucks emerged around 3 p.m. from hiding places in farmhouses and barns near the highway in an apparent attempt to attack the Kurds from the rear, American jet fighter-bombers streaked in and blew up the trucks with cannon fire and bombs

Bulk Downloads of FCC Comments on FCC Filing 14-28, Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet

Update, 4:38 PM CST, August 5, 2014:

This afternoon the FCC published this blog post: FCC Makes Open Internet Comments More Accessible to Public. Snip:

Because of the sheer number of comments and the great public interest in what they say, Chairman Wheeler has asked the FCC IT team to make the comments available to the public today in a series of six XML files, totaling over 1.4 GB of data.

The addresses in the files released by the FCC today are accurate to the zip code level. If you are looking for exact addresses of the subset of comments entered by users directly into the Electronic Comment Filing System, the information below may be of use to you.

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tl; dr: below is a bulk download of all Net Neutrality comments published to the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System as single file, along with the complete text of those comments. There are 475,280 comments available as of August 4, 2014. More comments are being published and will be available here as time goes by.

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