Back in June, Rebekah Jones was fired from her position as geographic information systems manager for the State of Florida, after she refused to manipulate COVID data in a way that would support the desires of the governor. She immediately launched the crowd-funded website Florida COVID Action to continue to provide accurate pandemic data. At that time we named her our Measurement Maven of the Month.
Since then Florida COVID Action has gone from a simple dashboard to a robust website full of useful information, complete with dashboards and articles dispelling myths about the virus. My favorite section is #Insubordinate in the News, which lists whistleblowers that have gotten into trouble for speaking truth to power and putting out good data.
Rebekah Jones deserves our Measurement Maven of the Year award because, as far as we know, she’s the only data geek that has been the victim of a police raid, apparently in retaliation for sharing data. In early December, Florida State Police raided Jones’ house to confiscate her computer and other data storage devices. Jones posted a terrifying video of cops pointing guns at her husband and children while she was held outside:
The video quickly went viral, prompting numerous interview requests on cable news networks. She claims Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was behind the raid, saying, “This is what happens to scientists who do their job honestly. This is what happens to people who speak truth to power.”
But it wasn’t just Jones and Democrats that were shocked. In response, Ron Filipkowski, a DeStantis appointee to a Florida judicial nominating commission and a self-declared life-long Republican, resigned from his post. He stated, “I have been increasingly alarmed by the Governor’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I believe the policy of this state towards COVID-19 is reckless and irresponsible…. I no longer wish to serve the current government of Florida in any capacity.”
But it was Rebekah Jones’ fearless response on Twitter that ensured her place as our Measurement Maven of the Year:
“If Desantis thought pointing a gun in my face was a good way to get me to shut up, he’s about to learn just how wrong he was. I’ll have a new computer tomorrow. And then I’m going to get back to work.”
True to her word, the website has been regularly updated since then. In addition to trying to raise money for a new computer and to keep the website running, Jones has had to start another GoFundMe effort to pay her legal bills.
For her troubles, her spirit, and her steadfast commitment to good data, she deserves our support. Congratulations to Rebekah Jones, our Measurement Maven of the Year 2020. ∞