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Alexis Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a staff writer for The Atlantic.
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The Peaceful Transition of Government Twitter Accounts

January 9, 2019 FROM NEXTGOV arrow The various committees of the House of Representatives are strange, human institutions. They are staffed by whoever holds the majority, which, since January of 2011, had been the Republicans, but is now the Democrats. And with that change, the committees must deal with important business, such as establishing new chairpeople,...

How a Feel-Good AI Story Went Wrong in Flint

January 3, 2019 More than a thousand days after the water problems in Flint, Michigan, became national news, thousands of homes in the city still have lead pipes, from which the toxic metal can leach into the water supply. To remedy the problem, the lead pipes need to be replaced with safer, copper...

How AI Found Flint’s Lead Pipes, and Then Humans Lost Them

January 3, 2019 FROM NEXTGOV arrow More than a thousand days after the water problems in Flint, Michigan, became national news, thousands of homes in the city still have lead pipes, from which the toxic metal can leach into the water supply. To remedy the problem, the lead pipes need to be replaced with safer, copper...

Facebook Didn’t Sell Your Data; It Gave It Away

December 20, 2018 FROM NEXTGOV arrow The New York Times has once again gotten its hands on a cache of documents from inside Facebook, this time detailing data-sharing arrangements between the company and other corporations, which had “more intrusive access to users’ personal data than [Facebook] has disclosed” for most of the past decade, the article...

Foreign-Influence Operation

December 19, 2018 FROM NEXTGOV arrow In their efforts to influence the 2016 election, Russian operatives targeted every major social platform, but one demographic group, black Americans, got special treatment, according to two reports made public by the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday. The reports—one published by New Knowledge, a new disinformation-monitoring group, and the other by...

What Sundar Pichai Couldn’t Explain to Congress

December 12, 2018 FROM NEXTGOV arrow The parade of Silicon Valley figures to Capitol Hill continued today when Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, the core of the Alphabet holding company, went before the House Judiciary Committee. Like every other tech-company hearing, it was more hackneyed than illuminating, more painful than inspiring. Pichai is a polished...

Finally, the Self-Driving Car

December 5, 2018 FROM NEXTGOV arrow CHANDLER, Ariz.—Across Arizona Avenue from Waymo’s self-driving-car showroom sits the Crowne Plaza San Marcos hotel, which is allegedly haunted. According to employees and guests, the ghost can move plates, knock phones off cradles, even—helpfully!—fold clothes. I passed this knowledge on to a Lyft driver, who retorted, “I didn’t know that,...

When the Tech Mythology Collapses

November 16, 2018 FROM NEXTGOV arrow Think back a few years, before the Amazon HQ2 sweepstakes, before Susan Fowler’s viral blog post, before the #MeToo movement, before the 2016 election. Across the nation, Silicon Valley was the crown jewel of the economy. The companies were youthful and ambitious. The culture was loose and exciting. The capabilities...

Iranian Propaganda Targeted Americans With Tom Hanks

October 27, 2018 FROM NEXTGOV arrow Facebook announced its latest takedown of what the company calls “coordinated inauthentic activity”—and this time, the propaganda network didn’t originate in Russia à la the 2016 election, but in Iran. About a million people followed one of 82 suspicious pages, groups, and accounts on Facebook or Instagram. One of the...

A Long-Term Solution for Scooter Sharing

October 16, 2018 On Monday, after the great Scooter Wars of the spring and the hotly contested permitting process of the summer, e-scooters will relaunch in San Francisco. The SF Municipal Transportation Agency blessed two companies—Skip and Scoot—of the 12 that applied for a license with the right to operate a pilot program...