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The Europe Roundup: Social Networks and Voting in Italy: is There New Evidence?

BY Antonella Napolitano | Friday, July 8 2011

  • Italy | Social Networks and Voting in Italy: is There New Evidence?
    In the past two months Italy has faced a round of elections  – two administrative ballots and a referendum day – which have been unanimously seen as a defeat for the ruling center-right majority and particularly for Prime Minister Mr. Silvio Berlusconi.
    Many commenters have suggested that online social networks played a major role in informing the public opinion and probably determining in some the decisions of the Italian voters.
    The argument is not new but it my have gained some relevant evidence lately. As researcher Francesco Molinari points out:

    [...] the big difference this time – particularly in the case of the referendum [...]– is that almost all nationwide TV channels did not provide any coverage of the election day till the very last week of campaign. Critics attributed this lack of transparency to the fact that 5 out of 7 channels (three private and two public) are controlled by the media tycoon and elected PM Silvio Berlusconi, and that the referendum was putting into question the building blocks of his government’s policy stance: from privatization of a public service like tap water supply to the rebuilding of nuclear power plants in Italy, not to forget the controversial law that had suspended de facto the numerous ongoing trial hearings of the Prime Minister till the end of his mandate.

    Molinari argues that word-of-mouth on the Internet helped draw attention to the strategy of the government to prevent the 50,001% quorum (percentage of population going to the polls) that is required to make a referendum’s results effective (different from any normal election).

    Italy registered an explosion of political discussions and particularly word of mouth spreading on social networks, with hundreds of Facebook groups created ad hoc and Twitter messages sent around to promote participation of friends and relatives in the referendum day (the assumption being that once reached the quorum, there would be no doubt on the results; in fact, the “aye’s” to abrogation ultimately won 95-5). Statistics available from Google Insights clearly show how the public’s interest on making web searches on the word “referendum” was steadily growing in the two weeks before. Here again, some humorous peaks were reached: for instance, Madonna’s latest hit being forced to change from “Vogue” to “Vote!“, or the TV information service for the hearing impaired becoming a pretext for mockery of Government censorship on how to vote. 

    The persistent power of television hasn't disappeared, however, so further research will be needed to pinpoint the impact of social media. But the question is there: "has this election round marked a real breakthrough in the Italian politics or is simply another step of the long march towards wider engagement of “ordinary” people in the electronic participation arena?"

  • EU | The European Union Goes Mobile!
    After the EU Agenda [http://bit.ly/c1r6WZ], the European Council [http://bit.ly/m2ZJnf] and the European External Action Service [http://bit.ly/rnlb7w], the European Parliament launched its mobile website in 22 languages [http://bit.ly/jjT36f].
    What's the next step to better communicate about Europe?
  • UK | FixMyTransport - Final Touches
    Another project developed by mySociety.org is about to launch: its name is FixMyTransport.

    FixMyTransport makes it:

    • Easy You don’t have to know who to contact or even which operator runs the line; all you need to know is where you were travelling to and from. We’ll automatically send your report to the right contact.
    • Transparent Transport operators are accountable: your report will also be publicly visible online to anyone, and so will the operators’ replies.
    • Social FixMyTransport automatically creates campaigns. When someone makes a report about the same issue as you, you’ll be grouped together on the site, creating more impact than all the complaints individually.

    There’s no more to it than that. No meetings to attend, or posters to stick up – although if you want to find the people to band together with to do those things as well, it’ll help with that.

    And mySociety founder, Tom Steinberg, seems ready to test it. What about you?

    (From Tom Steinberg Google Plus' account!)