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PdF: Can the Internet Fix Politics?

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This week I'll be at Personal democracy Forum, a big deal where people make online grassroots democracy happen.

Its big theme asks, really, can people use the Net to fix politics?

That's a big question, since political gridlock is really hurting our country. Most Americans are reasonable; but loud, extreme voices drown out moderate voices.

I talk to a lot of people on Capitol Hill, and they're tired of it, but no one sees a solution coming from leadership.

Every day for over 15 years, I work with grassroots America, and I can see most folks are like me in that we want to get through the day, and then become couch potatoes.  (Disclaimer: I like the conclusion to Lost.)

However, the situation in America needs people of goodwill to step up and say something, and the Net makes online grassroots involvement a lot easier and more effective than ever.

So, I figure, let's figure out what online grassroots efforts might have the most impact, and get involved.

One experiment originates from the White House, Open for Government, an experiment that was part of the Open Government Initiative. (I should note here that this effort is an ongoing success story that is not being covered by the mainstream press. Lots more effort is needed, but Washington bureaucracy is slowly getting fixed, and no one's hearing about it.)

There's another effort from Republicans, America Speaking Out, a grassroots site which is somewhat framed from a Republican perspective. It's a good start, and I'd guess that several thousand Americans are taking part. My take, as a political amateur, is that Democratic Party positions are leading. This effort might fail, like the Dean campaign, but then might be successfully rejuvenated, like the Obama campaign.

I feel that the movement toward online grassroots democracy will create a more civil, effective political system. This is not in the interest of some, but countermeasures are on their way to foil the efforts of people who don't want politics fixed.

Consider PolitiFact.com, where they fact check the statements of politicians, and hold them accountable. It's just a start, and it relates to the impressive use of Politifact on ABC This Week. We need a lot more of this, and it needs to be pervasive online.

Sunlight Foundation has created a network of sites which focus on government accountability via transparency, much of which has to do with the flow of money in politics. That is, Sunlight shows you where the money goes, and what it gets.

Finally, in my day job I can see a lot of people faking support for some issues, falsely attacking others, and running false flag operations. (The latter is where someone posts something ugly, allegedly in support of an issue, but which makes its supporters look bad.) The best solution for this is the accountability introduced with an identity system that's halfway or more effective. Right now, that's Facebook, they're the incumbent, since it takes real work to build a solid profile. We need to do better, but that's the reality right now.

So, people are already using the Net to fix politics.

The deal is that we need a lot more people doing that.

I'm stepping up even more now, thinking, figuring stuff out, then acting.

Can America count on you?

(Disclaimers: 1) Thanks to everyone who factchecked this, 2) I'm on on the board of Sunlight, and 3) politically, my bias is that I'm a libertarian pragmatist.)

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