Politics is complex and its digitalization is a long process that has been occurring in one form or another ever since the conception of computers, even well before the appearance of the World Wide Web. This evolution ranges from the use of modern real-time communications over the internet by public institutions to the sharing of publications in websites such as those presented by city portals. 79% of these portals are linked to social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr! Another use case on the Asian continent; South Korea already successfully deployed a small-scale on-line polling in Gyeonggi-do where around 9000 participants decided the destiny of 527 community projects. The most impactful change in politics in consequence of its digitalization by whatever measure however, is the shift of the political discourse from official channels to social media platforms. All recent mass protests were, or rather still are, organized on-line inspired by #hashtags! But we will leave the discussion of the huge impact of social media in politics to another time. Lets just point out that in many places around the globe meeting sessions are now recorded and streamed live on YouTube such as those made by the local governmental structures in the city Almada, Portugal in Europe. According to the World e-Parliament Report 2020 issued by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, more than three quarters of parliaments now use automatic video recording in their plenary rooms to capture and broadcast proceedings over the internet:
In some of these hybrid remote/presential parliaments secure on-line voting was available. Although still small in numbers, on-line voting saw a significant sixfold increase in its use in recent times. This is perhaps the most challenging feature when one wants to engage in digital politics. Voting is what drives consensus and it absolutely must be cybersecure and fraud proof. Spain, Brazil, the UK followed then by the Argentinian, Chilean, Latvia and Zambia parliaments developed customized voting applications for internal use inside the parliaments. The Parliament of Latvia in particular developed a fully virtual plenary system allowing its members to work entirely remotely. The commissioned programmers found a unique solution for integrating document management, voting and virtual meetings using Jitsi open source platform. To guarantee cybersecurity and verification, national identity cards were used. An interesting example of the potential of the digitalization of politics could be seen in a now deprecated project made by two portuguese citizens. The project went by the name of Hemiciclo which is portuguese for Hemicycle:
As free citizens, descendants of ancestors who signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, we no longer consent to the action of the current political system, based on the idea of representative democracy, as this proved to be ineffective in dealing with the challenges that confront contemporary societies:
In the first iteration of the internet content was static and based on a server-client architecture. This meant that although publishers could use the internet to share their content, it was not then an interactive exchange but rather a fixed communication in a one way direction akin to what today, still mostly is, the mainstream media. With Web2 and the advent of social networks, anyone with a smartphone was now able to publish and get feedback almost immediately from the audience it was targeting. However, in spite of being more interactive, Web2 still inherited the rigidness of the first web server-client architecture, which effectively meant that data was, or rather still is, in the control of the server administrators or service providers. Web3 is the attempt to come full circle in how data is shared by democratizing ownership; critical data is not stored in a single server but is instead distributed amongst a network of nodes out of which no single one plays a special privileged role. Additionally, these networks can be permissionless which effectively means that anyone with a decent computer and internet connection can join forces free of charges and other barriers.
Web3 is the attempt to come full circle in how data is shared by democratizing ownership
Information today is widely recognized as the 4th state; access to correct and updated information is equated as fundamental as the judicial, legislative and executive powers. Alarmingly, in recent times we've been faced with unprecedented efforts to control key actors and platforms by shadowy forces in an attempt to control both traditional mainstream press, media and the more recent and more powerful Web2 platforms on the internet. If ownership of most of the world trusted sources by a small group of privately owned companies was not bad enough, the years 2016 to 2020 saw 400 murdered journalists where 9 in every 10 assassinations went on without finding the culprits. Arbitrary detentions and imprisonment are on the rise according to the most recent "World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development" global report by Unesco. This trend should not shock the public considering we are all familiar with the Julian Assange's yet unresolved and infamous case. As young consumers aware of these facts moved from traditional news outlets to more democratic platforms on-line such as Facebook and Twitter, a new form of red tape-like entities known as fact checkers surfaced, again, backed not by democratically elected officials but rather financed by questionable billionaires, . Deplatforming and shadow banning started to circulate as a new jargon. It's not so much as that we are discussing the social impact of algorithms behind your news feed but rather deliberate attempts to silence sources often critic of governments or other influential entities. I could continue pointing out a never ending number of malpractices and attacks on the freedom of expression and why whistleblowers and journalists alike urgently need uncensorable channels of communication but in all honesty if this isn't obvious to the reader by now and with the information presented here then it will probably never be.