Recent blog posts by mstem

6 productive responses to PRISM

new PRISM logoAlong with the other free peoples of the internet, we've been discussing our reactions to PRISM, and whether and how US (and global) citizens might be able to organize against this unprecedented domestic spying. There are more questions than answers at the moment, and the enormous challenge of confronting an extra-legal entity like the NSA with people-power is strongly felt. But here are 5 things you can do that could prove more productive than petitioning the White House to respond. Thanks primarily to Sasha Costanza-Chock for the roundup:

1. Encrypt yourself
See The Guardian Project's Android apps, Security in a Box, and Tor. If you have the skills, go further: build tools / better UI / How To Guides / visibility to encourage more people to encrypt themselves, too.

Robin Chase and Nick Grossman’s hopes for the sharing economy

Photo by @brianquinn

Robin Chase (@rmchase), founder of ZipCar and BuzzCar, started the first company WAY back in 2000. It made renting a car as convenient as owning car, and "right-sized the asset", meaning you only pay for what you use. In addition to huge savings and new freedoms for consumers, this meant fewer cars sitting around unused in cities.

But less obviously, Zipcar stretched the definitions of "consumers" and "producers" in an economy. Robin prefers 'collaborators' as a more modern term. The company's success hinged on the assumption that most people are good. That trust, and bond with their customers, was key to creating the company.

Skype, Facebook, eBay, YouTube, Wikipedia, et al do the same thing: take excess capacity (sharing) and combine it with a platform for participation. Robin's slept in all kinds of beds, from hotels to a teenager's bedroom.

Are you creating change? Ask harder.

A post from Personal Democracy Forum in NYC, where I'm live-Tumblring on the official Civic Tumblr.

"This work is hard. If it were easy, it would be done already."
-Micah Sifry, asking the PdF community to take care of one another

Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman runs, and is Aaron Swartz's bereaved partner.


You know nothing, Jon Snow campaigners

How do you know when you're changing the world (a component of how DO you change the world?)

Taren says that organizers empower other people to create change, while campaigners set their sites on a specific change and go about creating that change, whether that involves empowering other communities, or drinks with a Senator's nephew.

This is a room full of campaigners. Taren challenges us to temporarily suspendthe assumption that we're accomplishing anything

#FBrape campaign scores quick victory against Facebook hate speech

How many major brands need to pull their advertising from Facebook to affect its policies governing speech?

One, apparently.

Last week I wrote up the #FBrape campaign's strategy: to hold Facebook accountable for the misogynistic content of its users by pressuring advertisers. Only seven days after the open letter was published, Marne Levine, Facebook's VP of Global Publicy Policy, published a response agreeing to the campaign's demands to better train the company's moderators, improve reporting processes, and hold offending users more accountable for the content they publish.

Women (and the people who love them) Go After Facebook's Advertisers

Strong social campaigns are based on a strong theory of change: how is my action (x) actually going to lead to desired change in the world (y)? Is that strategy sound? Is it effective?

Earlier tussles with Facebook, over issues like the site's distribution of user data (News Feed), or the site's removal of innocent breastfeeding photos, have appealed to the company directly, often on the platform itself. But a company with a billion users can find it difficult to respond to a tiny percentage of those users, even assuming good intentions. What they might respond to more rapidly, though, is a threat to their advertising revenue.

Women, Action, & the Media (WAM!) has launched a campaign (#FBrape) to get Facebook to restrict user content that promotes violence against women. What WAM! is trying to do here is start a series of conversations. By telling the public that Facebook "promotes rape" (a declaration I have some trouble with, versus "fails to adequately censor offensive speech"), WAM! hopes to drive enough consumers to express their disappointment to some of Facebook's advertisers. Here's how it could work: