mstem | MIT Center for Civic Media

Recent blog posts by mstem

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:

Holmes Wilson, internet activism, and why we need you

Fight For the Future is known for its massive viral organizing campaigns that changed Internet history both nationally and globally. Faced with the passage of Stop Online Piracy Act/SOPA and the Protect-IP Act/PIPA — legislation that would have jeopardized the open Internet as we know it — Fight for the Future organized the largest and most visible online protest in history. Holmes Wilson has also co-founded Miro, OpenCongress, and Amara. He’s been at the forefront of a range of open internet and participatory culture projects and campaigns.

Holmes Wilson (foreground) and Dalek (background)

The Boston Marathon, Social Media, and the News

I met my baby niece yesterday, Sunday morning. She was born late Saturday night. I went to some news sites to grab some screenshots of the things that happened the day she was born, and stopped myself. There were some really bad things happening in the world, Saturday, and every day. Instead, I wrote down that the Red Sox beat the Rays, 2-1.