Today in OpenGov: Unforced errors.
In today's edition, we launch a new resource to track federal web censorship, President Trump's financial records may be facing scrutiny, independent media in the Philippines push back against continual cyber attack, and more.
Screenshot from Sunlight's Gov404.
- Gov404 is the Sunlight Web Integrity Project's new tool dedicated to tracking censorship. Yesterday, we launched "Gov404: The Web Integrity Project’s Censorship Tracker, a new tool to track unjustified removals of online resources and reductions in access to content across the federal government…In order to point out how agencies are failing to live up to OMB’s guidance and numerous other Web governance policies, we have aggregated and verified the most significant cases of online information removal and censorship since the last presidential election on November 8, 2016." (Sunlight Foundation)
- To celebrate the tool's launch, we highlighted three particularly notable attacks on public information that help show Gov404's utility. (Sunlight Foundation)
- The House Select Committee on Modernization held its first hearing yesterday. "The House Select Committee on Modernization held its debut hearing on March 12. The panel is charged with developing recommendations on improving legislative technology, communications, business processes, human resources and more…Members were broadly consistent: The legislative branch needs to adopt new technologies, prioritize cybersecurity, be more transparent and boost staff pay to attract and retain talented employees." (Federal Computer Week)
- The federal judiciary approved a new rules package to address workplace misconduct. "The federal judiciary approved a package of rules changes Tuesday aimed at responding to complaints that the system for addressing workplace misconduct by judges discourages employees from reporting abusive or harassing behavior. The 26-member governing body for the federal courts, the Judicial Conference, has implemented “a wave of changes” to rules for judges and court staffers to clarify definitions of misconduct, D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland told reporters at the Supreme Court." (POLITICO)
- Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls are trying to figure out how to have their cake and eat it too on campaign finance. "Democratic presidential candidates have a money problem: They need to raise a ton of it while simultaneously proving their distance from big donors — and most candidates can’t do both at once…To address the conundrum, most candidates are imposing limits on how their own campaigns raise funds — refusing money from corporate PACs, for instance, and in some cases saying they don’t want super PAC support — to prove their anti-corruption bona fides, while also seeking out support from big donors behind the scenes. Most Democratic candidates are regularly attending high-dollar fundraisers in between campaign rallies and congressional votes, and there’s intense but covert competition among them to lock in major donors’ support ahead of rivals." (POLITICO)
The Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC. Image credit: James McNellis.
- T-Mobile CEO John Legere defended his decision to spend almost $200,000 at President Trump's DC hotel while seeking approval for $26.5 billion merger. "T-Mobile US Inc. Chief Executive John Legere on Tuesday defended staying at the Trump International Hotel while in Washington to ask the U.S. government to approve the proposed merger with Sprint Corp. 'I’m a longtime Trump hotel stayer, way before this transaction,' Legere told lawmakers Tuesday at a hearing looking into T-Mobile’s proposed $26.5 billion purchase of Sprint, which needs approval from two federal agencies." (Bloomberg)
- The New York attorney general is looking into the financing behind at least 4 Trump Organization projects. "The New York attorney general’s office late on Monday issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank for records relating to the financing of four major Trump Organization projects and a failed effort to buy the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League in 2014, according to a person briefed on the subpoenas. The inquiry opens a new front in the scrutiny of Deutsche Bank, one of the few lenders willing to do business with Donald J. Trump in recent years." (New York Times)
- Congressional Democrats introduce bill to mandate publication of presidential visitor logs. "Democrats in the House and Senate on Tuesday introduced a bill mandating the publication of visitor logs at the White House and other personal properties where President Trump conducts business. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Transparency Caucus, respectively, introduced the Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness (Mar-A-Lago) Act, a nod to Trump's private Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. The legislation was first introduced in the previous congressional term." (The Hill)
- Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will testify in front of Congress, but he'll only answer questions about his ethics violations in writing. "Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee will allow Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to answer questions in writing about his inaccurate financial report rather than face public questioning on the matter at an upcoming hearing. Democrats agreed to the billionaire’s request about his 2018 financial disclosure form that a U.S. government watchdog said violated his ethics agreement, according to correspondence between the two parties obtained by The Washington Post." (Washington Post)
around the world
Groups denounce cyberattacks against several independent media websites in the Philippines. Photo: Kodao Productions via Global Voices.
- Independent media groups in the Philippines denounce ongoing cyberattacks. "Several media groups in the Philippines marked the World Day Against Cyber Censorship on March 12, 2019, by holding a protest to denounce the ongoing cyberattacks against their websites which they claim are backed by the government. Since December 2018, the websites of alternative media groups Bulatlat, Kodao Productions, Pinoy Weekly, and Altermidya have been targeted by distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS). The websites of Arkibong Bayan, Manila Today and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines have also been attacked in the past month." (Global Voices)
- EU agrees on whistleblower protection language following negotiations. "Europe is one step closer to setting up for the first time EU-wide rules to protect whistleblowers. The European Parliament, the Commission and the Romanian presidency representing EU countries reached an agreement overnight in Strasbourg, after several weeks of tense negotiations…Negotiations were almost derailed twice because of disagreements between the European Parliament and national governments: first when the Council's legal service recommended excluding fiscal matters from the scope, then when EU powerhouses such as France and Germany insisted internal reporting of breaches of EU laws should be a mandatory first step for whistleblowers." (POLITICO)
- Prominent Venezuelan journalist detained by state security. "In the early hours of the morning on March 12, Venezuelan journalist Luis Carlos Díaz was confirmed to have been detained by the Bolivarian Intelligence Police (SEBIN). His wife, Naky Soto, also a well known political commentator, had reported him missing hours before…Luis Carlos is a long-time and celebrated member of the Global Voices community. For more than a decade, he has worked to defend freedom of speech and use of digital networks to maintain public access to information amid Venezuela's ongoing crisis…As of 3pm local time on March 12, Díaz remained in custody and was not known to have been charged with any crime." (Global Voices)
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