Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Transparency - a few questions

Here's ArsTechnica on US congressmen using social media. The people who make the rules are not happy about the general subject.

Two questions that don't seem to be asked here:
  1. Building a site that allows you to upload a video file to a codec that turns it into a *.flv file, and displays it in the way that YouTube does is no longer rocket science. Congress could consider building one of these if it wants to avoid positioning next to adverts.?
  2. 'Bloggers' are - it seems - universally against restrictions on web-access to congressmen. But has anyone asked the question: Does greater exposure and interaction with elected representatives improve or damage representative democracy?
Let me amplify q2 (apologies to regulars here - I'm going over old ground):
  • Politicians have rivals. Those rivals have more resources to throw at social media. Is this an invitation to race in which politicians are always going to carry a handicap?
  • An increased ability to compile data about politicians and voters makes it easier for pressure groups to bully politicians on single issues. It also hands more power to party managers and other centralising forces. This has hugely illiberal consequences. It will also force politicians and civil servants to be more routinely opaque in their dealings. Has this crossed the minds of any of our transparency crusaders?
  • Are the same bloggers calling for similar levels of scrutiny for the forces that rival politicians? Can we expect calls for every meeting between a lobbying company and their clients to be YouTubed and twittered? What about the strategy meetings of pressure groups? Or their fundraising reports?

I'm still trying to track down the Radio 4 programme about how broadcasting parliament confirmed the worst fears of its opponents. When I do, I'll let you know.

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