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Digital democracy and social media

Peter Henley | 14:08 UK time, Monday, 28 February 2011

Protests in Egypt c/o Getty Images

Footage of protests filmed on mobile phones has been fed back to the world by satellite TV

When they write the history of the fall of Arab rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya there will be a big chapter on the role of Facebook and Twitter.

Whether it's organising rallies, or simply raising spirits after years of suffering, the Arab youth and middle-classes have found their conversations on social media have given them the courage to overthrow their rulers.

So what is the equivalent here?

The e-petitions site on the No 10 website became a laughing stock, but attracted a great deal of traffic. There's a plan to give it teeth by forcing the House of Commons to debate anything with more than 100,000 people giving the subject support, which is still in the pipeline.

If you're interested in that stuff, have a look at this alternative. A site called Direct Democracy set up by one person, frustrated that he had no way to call politicians to account.

We in the traditional media can feel a little threatened by all this 'cutting out the middle-man'. But any journalist worth their salt has always kept their ear to the ground, aiming to be more of a conduit for opinion than handing out tablets from on high.

In which spirit I offer you some thought provoking ideas from a recent correspondent, Andy Taylor, who lives in West Sussex.

Mr Taylor is a keen viewer of programmes such as The Politics Show, Question Time etc but says: "I fortunately don't have any particular political persuasions so can view our political system in a much more rational way than most."

What do you think of his ideas, below? As usual - your own thoughts in the form of a comment left via the BBC system - will further the cause of digital democracy!

"At election time, why not allow any group, or combination of groups, present detailed manifestos covering their proposals for how they would conduct themselves if elected and give each one an equal amount of national media investigation/coverage. Notice I have said 'group' instead of 'political party'. I think the word 'politics' has become almost taboo amongst voters...


"At the election every voter in the country would get one vote and the group with the most votes 'counted nationally' would be elected. Their job is now simple, no opposition, just 'Execute their Manifesto' as presented, in detail, and previously supported by a majority vote. We now have what we voted for. A governing body all agreed on one clear plan, K.P.I's for us to monitor progress, direct accountability as there will be no excuses for not doing as promised, and most of all much greater government productivity due to less time being spent producing hot air during endless non productive debates/discussions.


"Local authorities would become non-political, have a plan to follow and be measured against it. This has got to be better for all than what we have at present and, if you think about it, could be done without risking our freedom, individuality, national identity, security, or anything else. I don't know about you but the present seems to have a smell of 'Animal Farm' about it. You know, 'we're all in it together, but some of you are more in it together than others'.

Is this a post-political age taking shape?

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