Far-Reaching Effects

The latest in tech and organizing, the impact of Pride marches and boycotts and why an app that encourages you to do nothing is doing so well.

Dear readers: I’m flying out to the west coast today to see family out there for the first time in more than 16 months, and to spend some time with my father who is dealing with some health issues. So, as they used to say in the blogosphere, “posting will be light.” Here are a few things that I thought worth noting:

Tech and Organizing

-Mobilize.us, the big progressive organizing platform, is steadily rolling out new features aimed at improving how people plug into upcoming opportunities for action, as senior product manager Peter Martinazzi explains here. They’ve added free text search, and have also started including related event suggestions. There’s a virtuous cycle of activity happening on Mobilize, since so many candidates and causes use it for their own organizing.

-It’s Pride Month, and in the blog Mobilizing Ideas, Phillip Ayoub, Douglas Page and Sam Whitt argue that visible LGBTQ activism moves public attitudes, using the 2019 Bosnia and Herzegovina Pride held in Sarajevo as a case study. Bosnia was the last European country to hold a Pride event, and the authors found that there was a marked decline in homophobic attitudes afterwards—but only in Sarajevo where organizers were active. In the rest of the country, opinions were unmoved, they report. Still, they write, the act of organizing a Pride march has long-term effects locally and beyond: “In our interviews with Bosnian activists, they noted how Pride brought some L.G.B.T.Q. people together, with far-reaching effects in terms of empowerment, bonding and social cohesion. One activist explained to us, ‘We received a lot of messages from L.G.B.T.Q. people from smaller communities and towns, saying that Pride gave them hope to carry on. I think that empowerment is most important’.”

-Related: Writing for the New York Times, Sasha Issenberg draws on his new book The Engagement: America’s Quarter-Century Struggle Over Same-Sex Marriage to argue that a big reason the battle for marriage equality won is the decision by some organizers to use campaign finance disclosure and the internet to target the funders of anti-marriage ballot efforts. He writes, “They demonstrated that shaming and shunning could amount to more than an online pile-on and serve as a potent tactic for political change.”

-Speaking of shaming and shunning, with the Former Guy banned from Twitter and now off Facebook til 2023, it might seem like his voice has been muted, but as this social media data analysis by The New York Times’ Davey Alba, Ella Koeze and Jacob Silvers, a lot of his supporters are spreading his words for him about as effectively.

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Privacy, Shmivacy

-Amazon’s Ring will now require law enforcement officials to make their requests for security footage public, a victory for privacy and civil rights activists who have been raising alarms about the close relationship between police and the giant company, Shoshana Wodinksy reports for Gizmodo. (The police made more than 20,000 requests for footage last year.)

-If you are concerned about Amazon Sidewalk, the company’s new wireless network that goes live today, which will automatically use a bit of your home connection to link up with your neighbors’ devices, The Washington Post’s Geoffrey Fowler explains how to opt out.

Odds and Ends

-Open government it’s not: It’s 2021. Five years after promising to make Assembly proceedings more transparent and accessible to the public, Speaker Carl Heastie hasn't figured out how to hit the record button on a Zoom meeting to post it to YouTube. So City & State’s Zach Williams is pitching in.

-End times: One of the most popular apps in existence, Calm, asks you to do nothing. More than 100 million people have downloaded it, and downloads surged by a third in the pandemic’s early weeks, Annie Lowrey reports for The Atlantic. What’s not clear is how many people actually use it regularly, but that isn’t stopping the company’s founders from doing the thing and cashing in as fast as it can, as she writes: “Now flush with venture capital, Calm is in the midst of becoming a full-fledged wellness empire: It is producing books, films, and streaming series, as well as $10 puzzles, $80 meditation cushions, and $272 weighted blankets. It is expanding its corporate partnerships, offering meditations on American Airlines flights and in UK Uber rides, in Novotel hotel rooms and at XpresSpas, and for employees of GE, 3M, and a number of other companies. It even has ambitions to move into hospitality, offering real-world oases to match its smartphone ones.”