[pp.int.general] Fwd: [liberationtech] Fwd: Democracy crowdsourcing in Estonia

Märt Põder boamaod at gmail.com
Thu Apr 11 14:07:36 CEST 2013

Do as you please, I think I will survive...

2013/4/11 Eduardo Robles Elvira <edulix at gmail.com>

> Hi Märt:
> Wow, that was quite a response! Thanks for the time you took to write all
> those details about the process. I really appreciate it, I'm very
> interested in this kind of things obviously. May I forward it to the
> original mailing list?
> Regards,
> On Wed, Apr 10, 2013 at 9:15 PM, Märt Põder <boamaod at gmail.com> wrote:
>> It's a long story with lots of details, but we can start from the fact
>> that the process was split in phases [1]:
>> 1. Gathering the proposals (so called co-creation or crowdsourcing,
>> everybody eith eID and Internet could participate).
>> 2. Sorting/analysing the proposals from a strictly neutral/impartial
>> perspective (experts).
>> 3. Neutral/impartial impact assessments of the sorted proposals (experts).
>> 4. Seminars with selected experts to rank the proposals (another set of
>> experts).
>> 5. Deliberation day to select the proposals to be handed to the
>> parliament (unbiased sample of population).
>> 1. The proposals were gathered using a flavour [2] of Your Priorities
>> software [3]. You could log in with national eID service. In the end there
>> were about 2000 proposals (from which 1300 were analysed). They were voted
>> up and down, commented on etc. There were lot of duplicate proposals and
>> there was no real possibility to discuss the proposotions because of
>> duplication, bugs and the format that encouraged making self-sufficient
>> points (arguments) instead of threaded discussions or something similar.
>> So, from my perspective it was just mass posting proposals, that could be
>> done with random forum software. The topics were agreed to be (1) funding
>> of political parties, (2) laws about political parties, (3) election
>> mechanisms, (4) participation processes, (5) forced politization of
>> society. Not relevant proposals were sorted into section "varia".
>> 2. This was the point where I started to severely doubt the process. Some
>> of my own proposals were already lost in this phase and there was already
>> some kind of prioritizing, although this wasn't what was promised. Some
>> people complained about these problems, but since the results were
>> published in an obscure manner and in several parts, not many people
>> bothered to pay attention at all. The original proposals had pro/against
>> votes, pro/con arguments and duplicates (had to be detected by analysts).
>> Somehow the analysts explained that they treated duplication of proposals
>> as main criterion to evaluate "prevalence" of the proposal, although this
>> is counter-intuitive (spamming was the way to success). Besides that, some
>> of the proposals were sorted into section "Overall state issues" which in
>> fact meant that they were just censored from the next phases. Note, that
>> among others all the proposals to use liquid democracy or something similar
>> were put into that pile of proposals by "the experts".
>> 3. The impact assessments were the next step to censor the proposals,
>> because the experts brought their understanding and presumptions of those
>> general political issues and although the resulting assessments were not
>> stupid, some of them were highly debatable.
>> 4. In this phase another set of chosen experts and some makers of
>> proposals were invited to live seminars to select the most important topics
>> to be discussed in deliberation day phase. From each of the five categories
>> 2-4 most important issues were sorted out to be voted on later. They used
>> the materials produced by 2nd and 3rd phases.
>> 5. On deliberation day there were 550 people invited who should have
>> represented all areas of the society. Only a bit more than 300 came. Those
>> 2-4 most important issues of five categories were voted on using the
>> prescribed multiple choice answers (whoever created those). This made the
>> process highly manipulative, the participants were there just to discuss
>> the topics using the materials provided by organizers and vote on
>> predefined options. After the last vote the organizers were all rejoicing
>> on Twitter and Facebook that the crowd was so "intelligent", since it
>> didn't vote for direct election of the president, although the public
>> opinion in Estonia is for direct election. If this is not an example of
>> manipulation, it's at least clear indicator of the will to manipulate. But
>> some people who were present actually say that it was good company and the
>> discussions were led professionally, so it wasn't that bad either.
>> ===
>> There is also a background story to this. There were anti-decitfulness
>> protests in Estonia in November 2012 [4], which were sort of benevolently
>> hijacked by certain group of intellectuals and political activists under
>> the name of Charter 12 [5], which led to the crowdsourcing process under
>> the presidental blessing. I was in touch with the organizers of the
>> protests as well as later took part of some of the meetings to start the
>> crowdsourcing process.
>> Although I was a bit disappointed by the hijacking part, I didn't really
>> make an issue of it, because the organizers of the protests didn't have
>> better plan anyway. On the first meeting of the crowdsourcing initiative I
>> proposed to have an intelligent discussion evironment with the process that
>> would contribute to the quality of proposals and discussions. But the
>> initiative group didn't care much about that. Instead they already had the
>> proposals that they wanted to see handed to the parliament in the end and
>> they wanted to create a process that would lead to the desired result. And
>> they were more interested in numerically gathering more proposals (lot of
>> participants as some kind of mandate) than enabling intelligent process. My
>> argument was that if the process were designed well enough, the need for
>> experts would be minimized and everybody would be in the same position to
>> gather support for a proposal. We even managed to discuss Lessig's "Code is
>> law" argument, but in the end that was just intellectual entertainment for
>> them.
>> Since the organizers had their own plan to influence the political
>> regime, I dind't try to engage in the process later on. Some Estonian
>> pirates who wanted to do that anyway, they were kept away from mailing
>> lists etc, so I might have been blocked too, I'm not sure. The process was
>> said to be open, transparent, grassroots etc, but it really was (and still
>> is, because it hasn't ended) a regular manipulative political process.
>> Anyway, I didn't want to undermine their project, I kept low profile and
>> just criticized some parts of the process in discussions on social
>> networks, university seminars etc.
>> In the beginning we reported on the progress of People's Assembly in our
>> Pirate Party channels, but after the 2nd phase ended, I stopped doing that.
>> Some of our members have criticized the process in their blogs and
>> suggested that in the end it is just poll of public opinion and as that
>> even not a decent one. I'm also on a position that the process had very
>> little to do with democracy, I cannot even agree that it was an experiment
>> in direct or participative or deliberative democracy. Actually, they could
>> have skipped all the phases from 1st to 4th and just organized a nice
>> manipulative deliberation day.
>> You should also know that most of the public criticism of the process is
>> either that (a) it doesn't lead to the changes promised because the
>> proposed changes suck and parliament won't agree with them anyway or (b)
>> the crowdsourcing and Charter 12 hijacked and discharged the protests
>> against our neo-liberal+conservative government which may have led to
>> something better and besides that the fake crowdsourcing is actually
>> election campaign for our social democrats.
>> For me the main problem is the non-democratic nature of the process which
>> noone outside the Pirate Party really seems to care about. And from that I
>> also have some kind of ethical dilemma, if I should remain silent on the
>> issue and therefore silently support the process (hoping that parliament
>> will take some of the good proposals and implement them, for example
>> lowering the threshold used in elections) or publicly condemn it (joining
>> the conspiracy theorists and doomsdayers) with the chance of helping to
>> stall the initative and ruin the chances of public support to whatever
>> direct democracy initiatives that might appear in the future (we have two
>> of them failed already, besides the one we're discussing now).
>> So our People's Assembly is not totally evil, but nothing to be proud of
>> either. That should be enough for the start. Anyway, some notes and trivia
>> for the conlusion...
>> * The Charter 12 people composed their manifest and vanished giving their
>> place to some ad hoc group of activists who were hanging around at the
>> president's place anyway.
>> * The preparation of the crowdsourcing process by these activists was
>> rather non-transparent.
>> * Everything was done in a hurry and therefore resulted lots of problems,
>> technical as well as substantial.
>> * The rhetoric that it was first implementation and therefore had flaws
>> and next time we do even better is not to be taken seriously, because there
>> was no intention engage specialists from universities to make it better etc.
>> * There was no proper definition of the process, it constantly changed,
>> 4th and 5th phases were invented/decided ad hoc after the 1st phase was
>> over.
>> * Although the 1st phase of the process was quite open in a sense (you
>> can exactly see who voted, argued, proposed what), rest of the process was
>> rather untransparent and there was no way to participate in it.
>> * There were also problems with AGPL licensed source code, which was not
>> published because of "intensive development process" as they explained it.
>> * One of our members (I think he's also reading this list) even used
>> presidental reception to put on an artistic performance for writing citizen
>> initiative into proper law to making our People's Assembly really binding
>> and transparent. [6]
>> [1] http://news.err.ee/Politics/f1fb8b53-d0ff-4582-99f0-83de232b9201
>> [2] https://github.com/cenotaph/rahvakogu
>> [3] http://www.yrpri.org/home/world
>> [4] http://news.err.ee/politics/64bff71c-3716-42a0-ad54-7724b8c43555
>> [5]
>> http://www.opendemocracy.net/ahto-lobjakas/charter-12-estonias-stab-at-direct-democracy
>> [6]
>> http://news.postimees.ee/1151090/surprise-guest-in-protest-action-first-lady-s-hand-ignored/
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> --
> Eduardo Robles Elvira     +34 668 824 393            skype: edulix2
> http://www.wadobo.com    it's not magic, it's wadobo!
> ____________________________________________________
> Pirate Parties International - General Talk
> pp.international.general at lists.pirateweb.net
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