Heads up: We’re celebrating our one year anniversary by doing an AMA with DJ Patil, former US Chief Data Scientist. Join the community by 3pm PT on Thursday, November 30th to participate!
One year ago, we created a space for technologists to gather, collaborate, and discover the positive impact their work can have on society. Our community has formed during a difficult time for the tech industry, and for democracy. Over the past year we’ve seen unprecedented attacks on the norms and institutions that protect us from authoritarianism, and revelations that those attacks exploited the platforms that we once believed would build democracy, not threaten it.
In many ways, it’s been a dark time for tech and society, but we’re fighting back. Nearly 2,500 volunteers have joined Data for Democracy. They know their work can make a difference, and the dozens of projects launched through D4D are a testament to their commitment. Here are just a handful of examples:
- We collaborated with the City of Boston to use data science to reduce traffic deaths
- One of our volunteers helped submit a brief to the Supreme Court to combat gerrymandering
- We launched a partnership with Bloomberg and BrightHive to develop a code of ethics for data science
- Three of our volunteers traveled to Geneva to accept an award from the United Nations for their humanitarian tech project that tracks refugees displaced by conflict and natural disasters
- We’ve worked with ProPublica to make campaign spending data more usable by journalists
- We increased election transparency by building the first publicly-available dataset of historical, county-level voting behavior
- We collaborated with the Southern Poverty Law Center to detect rising anti-semitism on social media
- We revealed a massive Russian influence operation across multiple social media platforms, found the first evidence of Russian use of Pinterest, and broke news about coordinated social media amplification of the Macron campaign email leaks
- We launched local meetup groups in cities across the US, and internationally
- We held two national hackathons, with coordinated events in Seattle, New York, Chicago, Louisville, Austin, Charlotte, and Boston
- We’ve partnered with Indivisible to build software that makes it easier to coordinate grassroots organizing in cities and states across the US
- We’ve been featured in TechCrunch and Geekwire, and our Director of Policy was recently profiled by the New York Times for her research in computational propaganda
Beyond the high-profile projects, I’m most inspired by the everyday passion and warmth of our volunteers. They’ve built a welcoming, inclusive, and vibrant community, and I’m excited about our future. With that in mind, we have a couple of big announcements that I think represent how far we’ve come, and where we’re going.
Where we’re going next
The first big announcement is that, in honor of our one year anniversary, we’re hosting an AMA (“ask me anything”) with DJ Patil, the former Chief Data Scientist of the United States. His dedication to responsible technology, service, and data science is an amazing example for the tech community. We’re honored that he’s joining us! If you’re not already a member of D4D and would like to participate in the AMA, you can still join the community before 3pm PT on Thursday, November 30th. We’d love to include you.
Our other news is that, after a year of operating as a 100% volunteer organization, we now have full-time staff! Astrid Countee is Data for Democracy’s first Community Manager. She’s dedicated to supporting the work of our volunteers, and making our community even more vibrant, inclusive, and impactful. She’s the first person you meet when you join D4D, and works tirelessly behind the scenes helping connect new volunteers with projects they’re passionate about. Welcome, Astrid!
This is big news, and we’re excited, but it’s also only the beginning. As technologists, our work shapes the future of our society, and we’ll play a key role upholding democratic ideals. That’s why over the next year we’ll continue to grow our community, build new partnerships with civic and mission driven organizations, and dig deeper into our research about how disinformation is corrupting our tech platforms and public discourse.
The fight for democracy is urgent, it’s non-partisan, and it could use your help. Regardless of your background or technical expertise, we want you to be involved.