Could online democracy lead to governance by Trumps and trolls?

in The Guardian: “The first two user tutorials are pretty stock standard but, from there, things escalate dramatically. After mastering How to Sign Up and How to RecoverYour Password, users are apparently ready to advance to lesson number three: How to Create a Democracy.

As it turns out, on DemocracyOS, this is a relatively straightforward matter – not overthrowing the previous regime nor exterminating the last traces of the royal lineage in order to pave the way for a new world order. Instead Argentinian developers Democracia en Red have made it a simple matter of clicking a button to form a group and thrash out the policies voters wish to see enacted.

It is one of a range of digital platforms for direct democracy created by developers and activists to redefine the relationship between citizens and their governments,with the powers that be in Latin American city councils through to European anti-austerity parties making the upgrade to democracy 2.0.

Reshaping how government works is a difficult enough pitch by itself but,beyond that, there’s another challenge facing developers – the online trolls are ready and waiting.

Britain alone this year offered up two examples of what impact trolls could have on online direct democracy – there was the case of “BoatyMcBoatface” famously winning a Natural Environment ResearchCouncil poll to determine the name of a multimillion-pound arctic research vessel, and then there was the more serious case of trolls adding the signatures of thousands of residents of countries such as the Cayman Islands and Vatican City to a formal petition calling for a second Brexit referendum, in order to have the entire document disregarded as an online prank.

In the US presidential election even the politicians are getting in on it,with a pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC (political action committee) hiring an army of online commenters to defend the candidate in arguments on social media, while the Republican contender, Donald Trump, is himself engaging in textbook trolling behaviour – whether that’s urging the hacking of Clinton’s emails, revealing the phone number of a Republican rival during the primaries, or unleashing a constant stream of controversial statements as a means of derailing conversations, attracting attention and humiliating his targets.

So what does this mean for digital platforms for direct democracy? By merging the world of the internet with that of politics, will we all end up governed by some fusion of trolls and Trumps promising to build Wally McWallfaces on our borders? And will the technologies of the fourth industrial revolution also usher in a revolution in how democracy functions?…(More)”