These Online Platforms Make Direct Democracy Possible

Tom Ladendorf in InTheseTimes: “….Around the world, organizations from political parties to cooperatives are experimenting with new modes of direct democracy made possible by the internet.

“The world has gone through extraordinary technological innovation,” says Agustín Frizzera of Argentina’s Net Party. “But governments and political institutions haven’t innovated enough.”

The founders of the four-year-old party have also built an online platform, DemocracyOS, that lets users discuss and vote on proposals being considered by their legislators.

Anyone can adopt the technology, but the Net Party uses it to let Buenos Aires residents debate City Council measures. A 2013 thread, for example, concerned a plan to require bars and restaurants to make bathrooms free and open to the public.

“I recognize the need for freely available facilities, but it is the state who should be offering this service,” reads the top comment, voted most helpful by users. Others argued that private bathrooms open the door to discrimination. Ultimately, 56.9 percent of participants supported the proposal, while 35.3 percent voted against and 7.8 percent abstained….

A U.S. company called PlaceAVote, launched in 2014, takes what it calls a more pragmatic approach. According to cofounder Job Melton, PlaceAVote’s goal is to “work within the system we have now and fix it from the inside out” instead of attempting the unlikely feat of building a third U.S. party.

Like the Net Party and its brethren, PlaceAVote offers an online tool that lets voters participate in decision making. Right now, the technology is in public beta at, allowing users nationwide to weigh in on legislation before Congress….

But digital democracy has applications that extend beyond electoral politics. A wide range of groups are using web-based decision-making tools internally. The Mexican government, for example, has used DemocracyOS to gather citizen feedback on a data-protection law, and Brazilian civil society organizations are using it to encourage engagement with federal and municipal policy-making.

Another direct-democracy tool in wide use is Loomio, developed by a cooperative in New Zealand. Ben Knight, one of Loomio’s cofounders, sums up his experience with Occupy as one of “seeing massive potential of collective decision making, and then realizing how difficult it could be in person.” After failing to find an online tool to facilitate the process, the Loomio team created a platform that enables online discussion with a personal element: Votes are by name and voters can choose to “disagree” with or even “block” proposals. Provo, Utah, uses Loomio for public consultation, and a number of political parties use Loomio for local decision making, including the Brazilian Pirate Party, several regional U.K. Green Party chapters and Spain’s Podemos. Podemos has enthusiastically embraced digital-democracy tools for everything from its selection of European Parliament candidates to the creation of its party platform….(More)”