Democracy Is Getting A Reboot On The Blockchain

Adele Peters in FastCoExist: “In 2013, a group of activists in Buenos Aires attempted an experiment in what they called hacking democracy. Representatives from their new political party would promise to always vote on issues according to the will of citizens online. Using a digital platform, people could tell the legislator what to support, in a hybrid of a direct democracy and representation.

With 1.2% of the vote, the candidate they ran for a seat on the city council didn’t win. But the open-source platform they created for letting citizens vote, called Democracy OS, started getting attention around the world. In Buenos Aires, the government tried using it to get citizen feedback on local issues. Then, when the party attempted to run a candidate a second time, something happened that made them shift course. They were told they’d have to bribe a federal judge to participate.

“When you see that kind of corruption that you think happens in House of Cards—and you suddenly realize that House of Cards is happening all around you—it’s a very shocking thing,” says Santiago Siri, a programmer and one of the founders of the party, called Partido de la Red, or the Net Party. Siri started thinking about how technology could solve the fundamental problem of corruption—and about how democracy should work in the digital age.

The idea morphed into a Y Combinator-backed nonprofit called Democracy Earth Foundation. As the website explains:

The Internet transformed how we share culture, work together—and even fall in love—but governance has remained unchanged for over 200 years. With the rise of open-source software and peer-to-peer networks, political intermediation is no longer necessary. We are building a protocol with smart contracts that allows decentralized governance for any kind of organization.

Their new platform, which the team is working on now as part of the Fast Forward accelerator for tech nonprofits, starts by granting incorruptible identities to each citizen, and then records votes in a similarly incorruptible way.

“If you know anything about democracy, one of the simplest ways of subverting democracy is by faking identity,” says Siri. “This is about opening up the black box that can corrupt the system. In a democracy, that black box is who gets to count the votes, who gets to validate the identities that have the right to vote.”

While some experts argue that Internet voting isn’t secure enough to use yet, Democracy Earth’s new platform uses the blockchain—a decentralized, public ledger that uses encryption. Rather than recording votes in one place, everyone’s votes are recorded across a network of thousands of computers. The system can also validate identities in the same decentralized way….(More)”.