Is Online Transparency Just a Feel-Good Sham?


Billy House in the National Journal: “It drew more than a few laughs in Washington. Not long after the White House launched its We the People website in 2011, where citizens could write online petitions and get a response if they garnered enough signatures, someone called for construction of a Star Wars-style Death Star.
With laudable humor, the White House dispatched Paul Shawcross, chief of the Science and Space Branch of the Office of Management and Budget, to explain that the administration “does not support blowing up planets.”
The incident caused a few chuckles, but it also made a more serious point: Years after politicians and government officials began using Internet surveys and online outreach as tools to engage people, the results overall have been questionable….
But skepticism over the value of these programs—and their genuineness—remains strong. Peter Levine, a professor at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, said programs like online petitioning and citizen cosponsoring do not necessarily produce a real, representative voice for the people.
It can be “pretty easy to overwhelm these efforts with deliberate strategic action,” he said, noting that similar petitioning efforts in the European Union often find marijuana legalization as the most popular measure.”

One Reply to “Is Online Transparency Just a Feel-Good Sham?”

  1. I don’t follow Levine’s conclusion: If marijuana legalization shows up repeatedly people just want to smoke weed legally. Doesn’t mean online petition tools are not representative.
    Also giving them a representative voice would mean legalizing marijuana after receiving the request – thus the problem is not the online petition tool but that they are implemented as a sham by the government to simulate participation and requests are not taken seriously.

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