Today in OpenGov: An oversight?


In today's edition, our board shares an update on Sunlight's organizational review process, we support an effort to boost Congress' technology knowledge, citizens in Oakland oversee smart city surveillance, weaponizing online distraction, and more. 

washington watch

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  • Sunlight supports a new group looking to boost Congress' technical knowledge and capacity. "Recent high-profile hearings involving election security and social media have exposed the wider public to something long known inside policy circles — Congress as an institution struggles to understand technology…Partnering with a range of technical, left- and right-leaning think tanks, Future Congress aims to provide a resource and information hub for the legislative branch, aimed specifically at supporting committees, staffs and incoming legislators." (Federal Computer Week) You can learn more about Future Congress here.
  • Twitter ramps up its efforts against fake accounts ahead of the midterms. "Twitter Inc. is ramping up the fight against fake profiles and spam in an effort to clean up its platform ahead of the U.S. November midterm elections…Twitter said it’s expanding the methods of identifying fake accounts to include scrutiny of those with stock or stolen avatar photos, copied profile biographies and intentionally misleading profile information." (Bloomberg)
  • Regardless of the outcome of his nomination fight, Brett Kavanaugh is likely to face ethics questions. "Last week, US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh railed against Democrats in Congress, the Clinton family, and 'left-wing opposition groups.' It was a startling display of partisan rhetoric from a judicial nominee — and one that raises ethics questions that are likely to follow him whether he is confirmed or not. The ethical sticking points for Kavanaugh are multifold whether he joins the Supreme Court or stays on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, where he currently sits. Kavanaugh's angry jabs at Democrats and liberal groups could be grounds for recusal requests in either court. Ethics complaints have been filed against Kavanaugh in the DC Circuit, including at least one claiming he lied about the sexual assault allegations against him. Ethics experts say there's no precedent for what happens to those complaints if he's elevated to the Supreme Court. For now, they're under the purview of the DC Circuit chief judge — former Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland." (BuzzFeed)
  • How Florida's Democratic Gubernatorial nominee is making the most of his new billionaire friends. "Andrew Gillum, the 39-year-old candidate for Florida governor, had a promising primary campaign with a serious shortcoming: he was the only one of five Democratic candidates who didn’t have either a family legacy in politics or millions of dollars of his own to fund his race. But Gillum’s financial fortunes changed sharply after he sat down in early May with the preeminent angel funder of the progressive movement, billionaire George Soros, in California’s Berkeley Hills…Young, charismatic and describing himself as “unapologetically progressive” — with the potential to become Florida’s first African-American governor and one of only a few black governors ever — Gillum represents to left-leaning donors everything that the White House doesn’t, making him a pitch-perfect candidate for 2018 in the eyes of the uber-wealthy left, starting with Soros, donors and strategists told POLITICO." (POLITICO)

states and cities

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  • Oakland's successful approach to surveillance reform prioritized transparency and accountability. "Building transparency and accountability, beyond ensuring the democratic process remains intact, renews trust in government and law enforcement, especially in places where massive surveillance has sowed distrust. The City of Oakland anticipates the creation of the Oakland Privacy Advisory Commission, the Surveillance Ordinance and all it entails (publicly released Surveillance Impact Report, Technology Use Policy, and Annual Reports) will be instrumental in rebuilding community trust." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • New tool sheds light on Atlanta, Georgia's city spending amid corruption probe. "Following a federal bribery probe investigating former Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration’s muddy financial dealings, the City of Atlanta announced a new transparency tool called Atlanta’s Open Checkbook. The Open Checkbook shows the City of Atlanta’s expenditure of more than $2 billion between 2017 and 2018." (Georgia State Signal)
  • New California law will force social media bots to disclose themselves. "California Gov. Jerry Brown drew plenty of headlines on Sunday when he signed the state’s net neutrality bill into a law, a move that was immediately met with a lawsuit from the Department of Justice. On Friday, he signed another bill that drew less attention — a new law that bans automated accounts, more commonly known as bots, from pretending to be real people in pursuit of selling products or influencing elections. Automated accounts can still interact with Californians, according to the law, but they will need to disclose that they are bots." (NBC News)

around the world

  • Empowering Nepalese youth through open data. "This summer,  the PAHICHAN – Youth Empowerment, Youth Leadership and Dataworkshop was conducted in 6 districts of 3 different provinces of Nepal, where more than 126  energetic youths were trained and sensitized on the concept of open data. The aim was to create a network of young data leaders who will lead and support the development of their communities through the use of open data as evidence for youth-led and data-driven development. The three days in-house workshop were conducted in Itahari, Bhojpur, Butwal, Nepalgunj, Dhangadhi and Dadeldhura from 12th July to 14th August 2018." (Open Knowledge)
  • Ahead of local elections, Polish prime minister implicated in same scandal that brought down his predecessor. "Poland’s prime minister came out swinging against a report linking him to a secret taping scandal that brought down the previous government and helped lift his conservative Law & Justice party to power…After examining 40 volumes of court documents regarding the 2014 publication of tapes of private dinner conversations between politicians and businessmen, website said it found statements by restaurant waiters who secretly taped Morawiecki, at the time the chief executive officer of Bank Santander SA’s Polish unit. One waiter, identified only as Lukasz N., said he remembers Morawiecki was recorded discussing potential real-estate investments to be made by him and an associate, which would be formally fronted by 'other people,' reported on Monday." (Bloomberg)
  • Tim Berners-Lee, "founder" of the Internet, launches to effort to give users control of their personal data. "The founder of the World Wide Web thinks it’s broken and has a plan to fix it. Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist credited with inventing the web in 1989, announced a new project today that he hopes will radically change his creation, by giving people full control over their data." (Quartz)
  • How China is weaponizing online distraction. "Margaret E. Roberts is an assistant professor at the University of California in San Diego, and the author of 'Censored: Distraction and Diversion Inside China’s Great Firewall,' a book about the new techniques that authoritarian governments like China are using to censor content." Henry Farrell interviewed her about her new book. (Washington Post


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