Citizen Participation in Important Public Debates

The German government hasn’t exactly made a name for itself when it comes to understanding “new” technology (“new” meaning the Internet). We had a politician who wanted to introduce a censorship infrastructure just to get good publicity (without making a dent into the problem ostensibly addressed, just draping a veil over it) and pretty much left scorched earth behind her, others wanted to create the online equivalent of an offline police state, etc.

So I’m extremely surprised when I saw a website of the Ministry of the Interior in Germany actually using the best of the Internet to get feedback on 14 theses on the Future of German Internet Politics (German only). Visitors can comment on theses theses, agree, disagree, or have a neutral stance, and even submit an idea to that theses point. And it was done in a smart way too. Moderated, obviously, but you can simply write what you think and after hitting the send button, you are asked whether you want to register and say it under your name (or pseudonym) or whether you would like to submit it as guest. It’s a detail but it shows to me that the creators of the site actually thought about the submission process and offered an easy way to participate, let users focus on the content, and then ask them in one window whether they would personalize their remarks — and they keep it optional.

Whether the public debate (or feedback) actually brings forth any new or good ideas or even changes policy is another matter, but it shows that at least some politicians are willing to listen. It would be interesting to see whether some organizations with a lot of expertise were specifically asked to contribute, e.g., the CCC or Media Psychologists. But even if not, I really like this creative idea of getting feedback.

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