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The Problem with Crowdsourced Legislation

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, February 22 2012

Writing for The Atlantic, Alexander Furnas, a master's candidate at the Oxford Internet Institute, critiques the platform for collaborative legislative markup built at Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-Calif.) and Sen. Ron Wyden's (D-Ore.) behest and launched with their legislative alternative to the Stop Online Piracy Act. The platform, he writes, is "flawed:"

Ultimately, the crowdsourcing process of OPEN is a promising step in using the Internet for democratic engagement in the U.S., but it is far from the "direct digital democracy" that Issa claims. As an attempt it is admirable, and its goal of participatory engagement in drafting legislation is one that hopefully others will emulate. But as a platform Madison is flawed. It is a platform designed without paying enough attention to the lessons learned and best practices developed by those already within the social web space. What its designers overlooked is that collaborative consultation online is merely a political application of already existing social web interactions. The last six or seven years have given us thousands of mini-experiments into how to do social engagement right online, and designing successful political engagement platforms need to learn from them.