Last updated: 1 march, 2010 - 16:35 GMT

Digital Democracy

China websurfer watching Wen Jiabao during an online chat

China's president Wen Jiabao is one of many leaders using the internet to communicate with the mass population

With each passing year, the internet is transforming the way we interact with our governments and the people who run our lives.

From 15 March, Chris Vallance looks at the many ways participation is changing our relationship with people in power.

Persuaders

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Whether it is policies or patios, sooner or later just about everyone wants to find the best way to sell an idea or a product.

In the era of the internet, companies and governments are discovering new techniques of persuasion - and top of the list are online social networks.

But how important are the likes of Facebook, Twitter and MySpace to what we think and do? Chris Vallance investigates.


Hacktivism

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From emails taken from climate change research groups to Latvia's so-called "Robin Hood hacker", computer hackers pack a powerful political punch.

But how far should you go to make a political point, and when does online activism become online crime - or even cyber-terrorism?

Chris Vallance looks at the debate within hacker circles about the ethics of hacktivism.


Coming up

Chris investigates the issue of transparency. How much data do various governments have about us? How much should be online? And what happens when it gets lost?

Meanwhile, media organisations are able to access secret information through sites such as click Wikileaks. Is this leading to a media without rules?

The programme also looks at direct action on the web, and how effective it can be, and at the hidden persuaders online - public relations and lobbying groups, sometimes posing as members of the public, and their efforts to effect change through online campaigning. The practice is known as "astroturfing" - but can it really work?

Digital Democracy is broadcast on BBC World Service news from 15 March 2010

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