Web, the people

April 15, 2012 | 2 comments

Armenian ParliamentIf there was any doubt that the Internet is radically changing democracy, check this out:

Spain’s new political party, the Partido de Internet, is a policy-agnostic political party that makes its decisions based on the will of a community based on Agora, a virtual parliament platform.

PDI is a policy-agnostic political party that does not have, nor will ever have, a political ideology. It has a single and radical proposal: PDI elected representatives will vote in congress according to what the people have previously voted through the internet using Agora.

[...] Agora is a software project with a clear aim to improve our democratic system. The project is well underway but still not complete, and is driven by voluntary work donated generously by members of our team. We welcome anyone, developers, researchers, security enthusiasts, designers, or anyone else who shares our vision, to collaborate and help bring this vision closer to reality.

Representative democracy as we know it today emerged because it was unfeasible for each citizen to participate directly. The Internet fundamentally changes that, and reveals political parties to be gatekeepers: unnecessary levels of organizational abstraction that are unduly influenced by capital rather than the will of the people they declare themselves to represent.

This is a sea change in how government works, and incumbents can see it coming. It’s worth examining the UK’s Internet surveillance plans in this light. David Cameron said that monitoring emails, web use and phone calls would protect against “terrorist threats that [...] that we still face in this country”. Could that include citizens peacefully organizing to push for greater democracy?

I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to also look at policies regarding anonymity and privacy online in this light. Tracking doesn’t just relate to advertising; it’s also always been used to monitor political dissent (alongside agent provocateurs). This is a subject that relates to how we are governed and – though it sounds almost insanely melodramatic to say it – the balance of world power. Owning and controlling your own data needs to be a democratic right.

I’ll be watching the PDI with interest; together with the Pirate Party, they represent a very interesting new phase in how technology and society interact. And just as news, publishing, entertainment and retail have been disrupted, the incumbent political parties had better take notice.

Photo of the Armenian Parliament by PanARMENIAN Photo, released under a Creative Commons license.