Posts Tagged democracy

A True Net Neutrality for the Advancement of Democracy

What is a true net neutrality? A true net neutrality means the internet is free from interference and censorship by any entity whether it is the government, corporations or individuals. It also means people have equal access to information and communication.

As Nelson Mandela have said:

Eliminating the distinction between the information-rich and information-poor is (also) critical to eliminating economic and other inequalities.

As Tunisia have demonstrated, the internet is a potent tool for the advancement of democracy.

I added the word “true” because an authoritarian regime could divert the real meaning of net neutrality by claiming they are monitoring internet content to enforce net neutrality. That is not true net neutrality. Internet providers are capable of dealing with disruptive user on their own. There is due process in place for dealing with criminals whether it is offline or online. Individual user is also capable of monitoring their own connection and detect any sign of inexplicable slow down. Information about the load on a network is something that can be made available to everyone. However, the content should NOT be monitored and censored. Protecting the kids and monitoring their online activity are their parents responsibility. Using kids as excuse to censor the internet is not acceptable. Controlling speed and lowering bandwidth caps to give the carrier an advantage over its competitor is anti-competitive and should simply not be allowed.

Here is a video of a panel discussion that deals with the importance of internet in a democratic society. A bit long but it is entertaining and informative at the same time. Listen to it on your phone or portable player during your commute or while doing other chores. The forum was hosted by Churchill Club (last Wednesday, January 19th), a Silicon Valley business and technology forum.

One notable quote from the forum:

The difference between a leaker and a spy. A leaker is a spy who shares the information with everyone. A spy is more selective with whom they share the leak (right?). You are only leaking it to RUSSIA! (audience laughter). If you leak it to Russia AND everyone else at the same time, you are a leaker not a spy. But of course everybody’s getting it. But the difference is motive. The spy has the motive to only help Russia, the leaker may have other motives.

That specific speaker also mentioned earlier about the difference between motives, which matters a lot in criminal law. It could be to inform the public or to to bring down a government you hate.

Another quotable quotes from another speaker:

The existence of a free and transparent internet has actually been one of the most democratic things that have come across in the human history. The fact that the barrier to entry, that somebody with a cellphone in (you know) Alabama or Zimbabwe has access to the internet, this is one of the most profound leveling events in human history. And if we don’t protect that thing that we have built so hard to cherish, we have failed our children. The freedom of the press should not be restricted to the New York Times.  But has to include Wikileaks. If we don’t fight that, we are giving up 200 years of the rights that we have fought to protect for the freedom of the press.

The speaker also asked rhetorically with regards to U.S. subpoena against twitter – which could be interpreted as asking for IP addresses of all Wikileaks reader :

Do you think the U.S. government should know the IP addresses of the 600,000 people who follow Wikileaks? I find that a terrifying infringement on the right to association.

He also noted that criticism of the government is at the core of the first amendment.

Some related news arising out of the discussion in that forum

Facebook Fights U.S. Pressure Over WikiLeaks

ComputerWorld – Ellsberg: With Wikileaks, Google, Facebook must take a stand

other links to checkout:

Wikileaks Central – News

Breaking the Net/Cell Carrier Duopoly, Plus Other Tips (My previous blog related to net neutrality)

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Open Source Democracy – Empowering Voters

One flaw in the current democratic system is once the politicians convinced the voters to vote for them and won, the voter really don’t have much say until the next election. You will often not hear from your representative again until then. The internet can change that through online voting and polling. Here is a possible mechanism for regular consultation.

Once an MP wins an election, a voting or polling system can be used to give voters in his/her constituency a voice on all matters before the legislature. The program will be developed using open source so that everyone can scrutinize the code. To encourage increased participation, the system should be straightforward and easy to use requiring minimal effort with simple registration. It should involve minimal cost to administer. The department or independent body administering the polling system would provide a personal access code to each eligible voter. This access code can be used to create a new user id and password for accessing the discussion forum and voting system.

The leadership role of the MP will be to make sure the voters are well informed by providing information that might not have been easily available to the voters. Disagreement and opposition to a policy usually results from fear or lack of information. The MP needs to participate actively (or through a proxy/admin) in open forum and ongoing debate such as the message board. A town hall meeting could also be called for major policy issues.

After the discussion and information phase is over, the voter then get to vote on the voting/polling system. The vote/poll could act as an indicator of how your constituency feel. The MP can still vote against the majority sentiment since it is non-binding (especially during initial roll-out). However, the MP will be under pressure to explain why he/she is voting against the majority of his constituency. If the MP is constantly seen to be defying his constituent’s voices and his/her explanation is not satisfactory, the voters are more likely to remember the slight on the effort they’ve put in to debate and discuss the issues. In this model,  the voters becomes active participants rather than remaining totally oblivious until the next election. Personal insults and bullying will be banned on online forum.

How does online auditing works? After voting, a confirmation number is generated by the system. After the voting has closed, tabulated vote results are displayed with the confirmation code and that voter’s vote. Voter are asked to keep the confirmation code private if they want to keep their anonymity. Anyone can see the tabulated results and other information such as the number of voters who voted. But there should be no personally identifiable information on the publicly displayed tabulated results.

What about Seniors or non-computer savvy voters? Library access and assisted voting by trusted relative or friends will be an option. Moderator of debate/discussion forum is also obligated to compile mail-in letters or call-in comments and present them online if they have not been covered yet.

All records will be made available permanently (or retained over long period of time) and can be referenced in the next election.

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