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The Internet Doesn’t Have to Be Bad for Democracy

It’s no secret that the Internet has become a major factor in the political sphere in recent years. But despite it being seen as a format that divides people politically, some are trying to change that. While such projects seem like large undertakings that are further off in the future, they are happening right now. In an article for MIT Technology Review, Tom Simonite covers how a new US startup, Pol.is, is already uniting people online.

Democracy Can Be Digitized

Pol.is provides a fairly simple function: survey populations and then generate maps displaying the dispersion of opinions in a region. Cofounder and CEO of Pol.is, Colin Megill, claims the system has a better handle on public opinion than other formats. And the idea behind the software is that it demonstrates, ultimately, that people have many things in common despite a few differences. Furthermore, not only do users provide agreement or disagreement with survey questions, but they can also create their own questions to have others answer. A dense web of opinions grows out of this.

The project is further supported by Graham Smith, the director of Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster in London:

“A lot of organizations are using Twitter and Facebook to try and engage publics, but these are not tools or platforms designed with democratic ideals in mind,” he says. Smith is working on a project that will test Pol.is as a way to improve discussions on online news articles.

The project saw great success in 2016, where it actively managed to create progress in regulations in Taiwan. The regulation of online alcohol sales had been in deadlock for over five years when Pol.is came along and, using their survey maps, were able to show that the greater concerns of many citizens were largely the same. Similarly, the Danish political party, Alternativet, is also utilizing Pol.is to help influence party decisions.

You can view the original article here: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/607990/the-internet-doesnt-have-to-be-bad-for-democracy/

About Austin J. Gruver

Austin is a Staff Writer for AITS. He has a background in professional writing from York College.

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