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How the White House Petition Site is Becoming a Digital Public Square

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, January 23 2013

Click throughs on the White House response to the "Death Star" petition

Most of the time, there is a huge disconnect between government and public. For years governments in the United States and Europe have been throwing money (away) at so-called e-government initiatives aimed at engaging the public, with the primary result of fattening lots of consultants' and designers' wallets. Most "e-government" platforms are relative ghost-towns. Meanwhile, as the Pew Center on the Internet & Public Life keeps reporting, the level of public discussion of politics online keeps rising--just not in places where it connects in any meaningful way with actual decision-makers. The "We the People" site is an important and growing exception to that rule. Read More

WeGov

How "We The People," the White House e-Petition Site, Could Help Form a More Perfect Union

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, November 20 2012

With nearly one million people signing petitions on the White House's "We the People" e-petition site calling for their state to secede from the Union, it's tempting to dismiss the platform as a lightning rod for the most disaffected Americans. But people petitioning the government could also be invited into a new kind of civic dialogue, one that might build on what "We the People" already promises: an official reply from the powers-that-be. Freed from the demands of another election and blessed with some of the smartest technologists in the country, the Obama Administration could use "We the People" to begin the work of constructing a real digital public square, not just another e-Potemkin village. Will they? Read More

A Dispatch From a Project to Build Wired Neighborhoods

BY Miranda Neubauer | Wednesday, May 9 2012

A new report documents the efforts of a group advocating for online spaces for civic life to build Internet forums for diverse, low-income communities online. Much of the report focuses on the challenges and the opportunities for growing the forums, and how both offline and online outreach played a key role. It also raises an interesting question: In tight-knit communities that have long held together offline, why ask members to go online at all? Read More

Using an Online Forum, One Woman Describes Coping With a Sexual Assault

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, November 30 2010

"I want to tell you that my children and I are doing quite well considering that we had a gun held to our chests only three days ago," the message read, in a simple sans-serif font. A person named Alexandra Ellison ... Read More

eDem10: A Look at Best Methods for Democratic (and Undemocratic) e-Participation

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, May 6 2010

I'm in Krems, Austria for the two-day eDemocracy2010 conference (hashtag #eDem10), where I'll be giving a keynote talk tomorrow on "The Promise and Contradictions of e-Democracy, Obama-Style." The conference brings ... Read More

Let Congress Tele-commute: A Radical, Common-Sense Proposal to Transform Representative Government

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, February 19 2010

If you haven't noticed already, I like "crazy" ideas. That is, notions that may appear like they come from outside the ballpark, but have a germ of possibility and suggest, "There might be a better way to do things than ... Read More

Today's Obama-YouTube Q&A: Moving the Ball Forward [UPDATED]

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, February 1 2010

Today's YouTube event at the White House, starring President Obama, CitizenTube director Steve Grove, and a bunch of user-generated questions from the public, has to be judged a success, in my view. Read More

MoveOn.org Doing Real-Time Mass Dial-Test of Obama SOTU

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, January 27 2010

MoveOn.org, the five-million member e-organization of progressive activists, is doing something really interesting with its members tonight: thousands of them are going to be participating in a live online dial-test of ... Read More

Use Your iPhone to Sign a Ballot Initiative: Test Case Launches in CA

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, January 5 2010

If you can sign an electronic pad at the supermarket to pay your credit card bill, why can't you sign the touch-screen of your iPhone to sign a political petition? That question is now being put to the test by the ... Read More

"Ask U.S.": State Department 2.0 on Sudan, Darfur and Public Engagement

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, November 9 2009

Tomorrow afternoon at 3:00pm EST, Special Envoy Scott Gration and Samantha Power, NSC Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs, are going to sit down at the White House with the leaders of the largest, most vocal ... Read More

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

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Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

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The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.

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Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.

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Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.

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Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.

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