Today in OpenGov: Sharing is caring


In today's edition, Mike Flynn stops sharing, Yochai Benkler looks at the Honest Ads Act, Stephen Larrick explains how to boost open data impact, mySociety wants open political data for all, and much more. 


  • The legal teams for Michael Flynn and President Trump no longer sharing information. "Lawyers for Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, notified the president’s legal team in recent days that they could no longer discuss the special counsel’s investigation, according to four people involved in the case — an indication that Mr. Flynn is cooperating with prosecutors or negotiating a deal." (The New York Times)
  • Donald Trump Jr. will headline a fundraiser for the vice chair of President Trump's "voter fraud" commission. "President Trump’s eldest son is headlining a fundraiser in Kansas next week for Republican gubernatorial hopeful Kris Kobach, marking the Trump family’s entrance into a crowded race on behalf of a high-profile leader of the president’s controversial voter fraud commission." (Washington Post)
  • A hotel at Shenandoah National Park sold Trump Wine. Was it a conflict? Bill Snape and the Center for Biological Diversity think it was. Robinson Meyer reports that the Skyland Lodge, a hotel in Shenandoah National Park sold wine from the nearby Trump winery until earlier this year. He writes, "Snape worries that the sale poses a major conflict of interest and may even violate the Constitution’s emoluments clause…The company behind Skyland Lodge has now confirmed that it sold Trump wine at Shenandoah National Park this year. This week, Snape and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act to learn how Trump wine came to be sold at Shenandoah in the first place." (The Atlantic)
  • Several former Trump staffers failed to file required financial reports as they left the White House. "Several of President Donald Trump’s top aides — including former chief strategist Steve Bannon and former deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka — have failed to file legally required financial reports after they were dismissed this summer, according to the White House…In total, at least four senior White House staffers have not filed termination reports, which outline their financial activity while serving in the White House." (McClatchy)
  • How the Trump administration is censoring climate change information on the web. Sunlight Fellows Toly Rinberg and Andrew Bergman take their research to the New York Times op-ed page, arguing that the "administration is making it harder to find government information about climate change on the web." Starting earlier this year, for instance, the Environmental Protection Agency " began systematically dismantling its climate change website, which had survived Democratic and Republican administrations and was a leading source of information on a global problem that the president, as a candidate, labeled 'a hoax.'" (New York Times)

washington watch

  • The Honest Ads Act is a "valuable step", but won't solve all of the problems with online propaganda. Law professor Yochai Benkler, who sits on Sunlight’s advisory board, recently analyzed how the Honest Ads Act would affect disclosure of election advertising –– and how the bill would not address botnets, sockpuppets or intentional falsehoods — in Harvard Law Review. With permission, we've published the article on the Sunlight Foundation blog
  • Why tech giants need to be more transparent about their efforts to fight fake news and propaganda. Paul Barrett, while exploring broad efforts to fight "internet pollution", argues that big tech companies should show leadership and that "the digital giants could prove their good faith and lessen misuse of their platforms if they opened up their corporate data operations—not, of course, the private data of customers—to outsiders." (Bloomberg)
  • Meanwhile, Facebook reveals plans to let users know if they had contact with Russian "trolls". "Facebook announced Wednesday it will unveil a tool by year’s end allowing users to learn of any Facebook or Instagram contact they may have had with Russian internet trolls leading up to and following the 2016 U.S. election." (POLITICO)
  • New York Attorney General says the Federal Communications Commission won't cooperate with net neutrality investigation. "New York's attorney general has been trying to investigate fraud in public comments on the Federal Communications Commission's anti-net neutrality plan but alleges that the FCC has refused to cooperate with the investigation." (Ars Technica)
  • Bipartisan bill aims to boost coastal resiliency through better data. "Reps. Charles Albert Ruppersberger (D-Maryland) and Don Young (R-Alaska) have introduced a bill that seeks to assist local and state governments in efforts to increase the resiliency of the country’s 95,000-mile shoreline. Ruppersberger’s office said said Tuesday the Digital Coast Act would establish a coastal mapping system at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and make collected data available on NOAA’s public website." (Government Executive)

states and cities

  • How user personas can boost the social impact of open data. Sunlight's Stephen Larrick exlains how "thinking of a specific person who will use open data (and why) can help cities share that data in ways that are more useful and ultimately increase the social impact of open data. This user-centered focus is a key aspect of our tactical data engagement (TDE) approach to opening data." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • Washington, DC area transit agency changes its API terms, threatening community use. "WMATA recently revised its developer liscence agreement which lays out the terms of service users agree to when using the transit agency’s data. Local developers are telling us that the terms in the new agreement will restrict their ability to develop applications and their own APIs." ( DC
  • Today is final day to comment on Baton Rouge, Louisiana's open data policy. You can review the draft and provide feedback using the Madison platform.

around the world

The Democratic Commons is described as an outgrowth of mySociety's EveryPolitician project. 
  • What is the 'Democratic Commons' and how will it be created? Matt Jukes explains that the idea for the 'Democratic Commons' builds off of the Open Data Institute's idea of data infrastructure by promoting "the building of an open, sustainable data infrastructure for political data on a global scale. So nothing too grand then!" (mySociety)
  • How open data helps water advocates advance their mission. Danny Lämmerhirt and Nisha Thompson "share insights on how law firms, NGOs, academic institutions, funding and research organisations perceive the usefulness of GODI [Global Open Data Index] for their work. Our research focussed on the South Asian countries India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh. All countries face similar issues with ensuring safe water to their populations because of an over-reliance on groundwater, geogenic pollutants like arsenic, and high pollutants from industry, urbanisation, farming, and poor sanitation." (Open Knowledge)
  • Social media rumors stoke tension between Buddhist and Muslim communities in Sri Lanka. "Tensions between Sinhalese Buddhists and members of the minority Muslim community in southern Sri Lanka have escalated in recent days. Police say this is thanks in part to the spread of false information on social media." (Global Voices)
  • Suspects in Saudi Arabian graft probe are trading assets for freedom. "Some businessmen and officials being detained at the Ritz-Carlton are signing agreements with authorities to transfer a portion of their assets to avoid trial, the people said, asking not to be identified because the discussions are private. Some detainees have started to transfer funds from personal accounts to government-controlled accounts, the people said." The Saudi government may bring in close to $100 billion such the settlements. (Bloomberg)


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