What you can do to strengthen democracy

By Jessica S. McKenzie

Democracy Spring protest at The Capital (credit: Lorie Shaull)

Our collected stories this week look at how ordinary citizens can strengthen the essential pillars of  democracy. One way is to streamline direct communication between constituents and their political leaders, to help guide policy and governance. A strong Fourth Estate keeps politicians accountable. And now we know that we need to rethink the purpose and functioning of technology, so that it works for the people rather than as a means by which the government controls the people.

Civic hackers are remaking Taiwan’s democracy from within. Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s Digital Minister, describes in The Economist the rise of the g0v-zero movement, which encourages the public to participate in writing and rewriting new laws and policies, and to suggest new ideas for consideration. If an e-petition reaches a certain threshold of signatures, the relevant ministry is required to respond. Tang’s message is that technology can enable the promise of democracy in ways that were previously impossible. Read more.

How can we make the media more diverse? Broadcast and print media in the western democracies remain stubbornly dominated by white men, despite rising levels of awareness and some conscious efforts to change hiring practices. Sarah Jones, a staff writer at The New Republic, examines the structural problems that prevent aspiring journalists of non-white and/or working class backgrounds from breaking into journalism. One of the main issues, she writes, is that an entry level job in journalism usually begins with unpaid internships — or at the very least, years of low pay and job insecurity. Read more.

Making social media more civil is the goal of entrepreneur Brian Whitman. The New York-based technologist created an algorithm that is essentially a more ethical recommendation system, so that users won’t be duped by clickbait into spreading the worst racist, sexist, and conspiratorial content. Read more.

Will anti-trust activism be the driving issue for the Democrats in 2020? Barry Lynn, a prolific writer and former New America fellow, has joined presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren in pushing for a breakup of the big tech monopolies for a more democratic capitalist system. This is the story of a few tough activists pushing hard against a system that has failed to check unrestrained consolidation of money, power, and market dominance. Read more.

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