Nov 16 2006

Online democracy, or astroturfing open season?

Published by at 9:56 am under Comms,Digital,Media,Politics

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Kudos to Tony and co for the launch this week of Number 10′s online petitions website. Thanks to some clever coding from the people over at mySociety, you can now petition the PM online.

The website’s only been up for two days but is already proving tremendously popular, with petitions requesting the PM to do everything from resign immediately to stand on his head and juggle ice cream. I wonder which they’d like him to do first?

Now, on the face of it I think the ePetition website is a great idea. Kind of like a citizens’ EDM website, although setting up an online petition does rather rob the petitioners of the pomp and circumstance of hand-delivering a petition to the black door with the wonky zero.

But I’ve a niggling concern. If you believe the various commentaries and observations, our friends over at Borkowski are in trouble (again), this time for apparently manipulating YouTube rankings.

Taking this one step further, how easy is it going to be for those pressure groups (or, dare I say it, lobbying firms) with either the time, manpower or resource, to artificially inflate a petition’s popularity?

I’m sure mySociety have thought of this, but on the face of it the ePetitions site does look an awful lot like an open invitation to astroturfing. Which can’t be good.

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