Focus

Digital Democracy

Published on

In addition to the ballot box and regular elections, and in an attempt to circumvent the desertion of so-called conventional forms of political participation, social networks (Facebook and Twitter), viral hashtags (#OccupyWallStreet in 2011, #BlackLivesMatter in 2013, #BringBackOurGirls in 2014, #JeSuisCharlie in 2015, #MeToo in 2017), and online petition platforms (civic tech) claim to encourage citizens and civil society organizations to engage on a daily basis, at all levels and with regard to any subject. These platforms gather individual support for causes put forward by other citizens, which may consist of an opinion, a warning, a condemnation, or a plea to monitor, make a demand, or take action. Although NGOs make most of their appeals via their web sites, they also have recourse to these platforms in order to make their cause known to a wider public, or as a cheaper way of raising funds. Finally, public, private and elected officials can use them to gauge public opinion on a variety of social issues, and at less cost compared with other tools such as opinion polls. The largest of these platforms are Change.org, (more than 200 million people in 196 countries, a certified B Corp social enterprise that has raised 50 million dollars) and Avaaz.org (14 languages, 47 million members, financed by its donors), both launched in 2007 in the United States; and Mesopinions.com (4 million users, launched in 2006, which also offers opinion polls). All claim to represent citizens, and to be international, independent, at the service of peoples’ democracy, and capable of influencing global political decisions (their “victories”). However, these platforms raise questions and criticisms as to the nature of civil engagement (fleeting, non-present, and strictly individual), their representativeness (bias caused by access to digital tools, which excludes many of those with the greatest need to be heard), and the protection of personal data which may need regulation (cases of algorithms determining a signatory’s possible interest in another petition proposed by the platform, or the service of sponsored petitions with targeted audience sold to NGOs).

Avaaz membership, 2018

Source: Avaaz, https://secure.avaaz.org

To quote this article

" Digital Democracy " World Atlas of Global Issues, 2018, [online], accessed on Mar 15 2021, URL:
https://espace-mondial-atlas.sciencespo.fr/en/topic-strategies-of-transnational-actors/focus-3F08-EN-digital-democracy.html

back to top