Lauren is a reporter for The Next Web, based in San Francisco. She covers the key players that make the tech ecosystem what it is right now. Lauren is a reporter for The Next Web, based in San Francisco. She covers the key players that make the tech ecosystem what it is right now. She also has a folder full of dog GIFs and uses them liberally on Twitter at @lhockenson.
If you need something to really get done in your community, you have to contact your local congressperson. They are, of course, your elected officials that are designed to represent your community in congress, right?
Assuming that you already know who to go to, actually contacting even one congressperson can be tricky: politics hasn’t necessarily kept up with technology, so finding the contact form is unintuitive and the ensuing process is often lengthy. When you’re interested in contacting more than one congressperson, double, triple, or quadruple that headache.
That’s why the Electronic Frontier Foundation launched democracy.io today. The minimal website asks for your address and then identifies which of the 538 representatives listed are in your area. You can then write a letter to those people on the topic of your choosing, and the EFF will send it to them.
In addition to protecting users’ privacy, the EFF has licensed the code under the AGPL to make the site truly free.
Sina Khanifar, tech fellow at EFF, said in an email that democracy.io is built on an open source dataset that describes to a computer the steps necessary to submit messages via each contact form — made possible by the hard work of 100 volunteers. The dataset is now maintained by EFF, the Sunlight Foundation, and Action Network.
But Khanifar said the project ran into another hurdle — some congresspeople have CAPTCHAs that help protect against spam. The EFF developed a system called phantom-of-the-capitol, which will identify whether a congressperson has a captcha in their form, screenshot it, and then send it back to the user to fill out.
The power of democracy.io is great — many grass-roots causes hinge on widespread letter-writing campaigns to local congresspeople, and the website cuts out most of the frustration in figuring out how to get it all done without being ultra-expensive.
➤ New EFF Tool Makes Emailing Congress Just a Few Clicks Away [Electronic Frontier Foundation]
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