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IEET > Rights > Life > Access > Innovation > Vision > Contributors > Piero Scaruffi

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How Beppe Grillo is failing while trying to control eDemocracy in Italy

Pietro Speroni di Fenizio
By Pietro Speroni di Fenizio
Ethical Technology

Posted: Jul 14, 2013

Doc Searls makes a great talk on the State of the Net in which he explains how we are reaching the personal data cloud. And also how, also this time, like in the past, with computers, mainframe, networks, mobiles, the corporate world is trying to control those data. And in doing so they limit their usefulness. What gets built outside always becomes more valuable than what is being built inside. Inevitably ending to support those corporations prefer to interface with what is outside than build their own walled gardens.

What we should note is how the same thing is happening for eDemocracy. It is already happening. Alessandro Gilioli, journalist for the Espresso notices (in italian) it on his blog Piovono Rane.

Dice oggi Beppe Grillo che gli iscritti al MoVimento 5 Stelle di Roma non potranno esprimersi sull’ipotesi di mandare un assessore nella giunta Marino nella consultazione on line decisa (decisa?) ieri dai consiglieri comunali del M5S eletti a Roma.

[TRANSLATED] Beppe Grillo says that the people registered with the MoVimento 5 Stelle from Roma cannot express themselves on the hypothesis to send a collaborator inside the Marino’s [Major of Rome] team. Voting on line decided (decided? [nda]) yesterday by the city councilmen from M5S elected in Rome.

Let’s now look at Beppe Grillo’s post, because I think it is important:

In merito ad alcune iniziative dei consiglieri comunali di Roma si ribadisce che:
– il MoVimento 5 Stelle non fa alleanze, né palesi né tantomeno mascherate, con alcun partito, ma vota le proposte presenti nel suo programma
– l’unica base dati certificata coincidente con gli attivisti M5S e con potere deliberativo è quella nazionale che si è espressa durante le Parlamentarie e le Quirinarie e quindi il voto chiesto da De Vito on line non ha alcun valore

[TRANSLATED] regarding some initiatives from the city councilmen of Rome, it is here clarified that:
- the 5 Star MoVement makes no alliances. Neither overt nor covert, with any party. Instead it will vote the proposals that are present in it’s own program
- The only certified database of activists of the M5S movement allowed to deliberate is the national list that have expressed themselves during the “Parlamentarie” [a vote in which the people to be elected to the parliament were chosen] and the “Quirinarie” [a vote in which the 5 Star Movement decided who to vote for the President of the Republic]. As such the vote asked by De Vito on line has no value.

Let us look at this point:”The only certified database of activists of the M5S movement allowed to deliberate is the national list“. First of all this is a new rule, that was not there before. Beppe Grillo first calls himself just a “spokeperson”. E even declares that everybody will be allowed to participate in eDemocracy. And now he claims that the only owner of the list of people allowed to take decisions is himself, and the company connected to him, the Casaleggio e Associati. We are absolutely in the situation described by Doc Searls. And it is right my friend Adriano Zaccagnini, when (leaving the 5 Star Movement) declared that the 5 Star Movement is not a Company-party, but a Movement-Party. Something like a Berlusconi 2.0.

Now let us discuss what can be done. The Major of Rome, Marino, il searching for an Assessor on law and urban security declares that he is willing to evaluate curriculum presented by the 5 Star Movements. By itself a generous act. People of the MoVement, from Rome, local activists, decide to consult the Net. What are the risks for Beppe Grillo? There are several. First of all he is risking to lose the control over the Movement. If local people makes agreements with the PD, what will be about his Leadership? Second, there is the risk that in future PD asks for something back: As we gave you an assessor, now you own us… . If Grillo is making this analysis he shows to be more ancient, politically, than many of his collaborators. Even Marino himself, simply is opening up to people with a good Curriculum presented by the Net. Why shouldn’t he?

Then there is the problem of the local elections. Up to now each group was organising himself through meet up. And would organise its internal decisions as they wanted. In Sicily there is a Liquid Feedback platform. In Tuscany and Sardinia they are starting with Airesis platforms. And Beppe Grillo has no control over those groups. Activists from Bergamo, who organised themselves with a Liquid Feedback platform, have rejected the request to expel Adele Gambaro. This must have been an alarm bell for Beppe Grillo and his staff. Another alarm bell must have been the opening of  TuParlamento a Liquid Feedback platform. Open from a few days by some politicians from the Partito Democratico (center left party). Tu Parlamento opens on the 19th of June. The 20th of June, the day after, Beppe Grillo decides, finally, to look for programmers for his platform. Considering the complexity of some of the documents linked it is obvious that he must have been working on it from a long time. But this passage must have happened 6 months before the national elections. Not now.

In other words, Beppe Grillo, who has been the public person to discover the eDemocracy in our country is slowly losing control of it. What should we do, and what well happen? Regarding the situation in Rome, absolutely nothing. Beppe Grillo is irrelevant, because it is not him (nor someone from the M5S) that will decide the new “assessore”. The Net is absolutely free to decide and propose any name they want. Marino is free to accept those names or not. The only thing that should be clear is that this action does not have, nor can it have, any implication on possible future decisions (local or nationals).In this sense the Net takes decisions basing itself on the data of now. has a (perfect) memory, but does not keep promises (being always made by different people).

It is inevitable that eDemocracy will find its way out of the chains that Beppe Grillo is clumsily trying to place around it. Airesis has its own followers. Liquid Feedback never needed anything from Beppe Grillo. The new platform from Beppe Grillo is being planned with a series of limits to make sure that it can be controlled well. The more Beppe Grillo does this, the more the people will leave the Movimento 5 Stelle.

Pietro Speroni di Fenizio is a scientist and mathematician who holds a Master degree in Evolutionary and Adaptive Systems and a PhD in Bioinformatics. From 2008 he has been researching in e-democracy, developing the website to test alternative ways to reach consensus in a participative environment. In his personal life he has an interest in Taoism, Permaculture, Tai Chi. His publications are available from
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Now, that was interesting- and for multiple reasons.

For one, it’s great to learn that there are interesting and positive going on in political terms in Europe. US media left me with the impression that the only thing to grow out of the EU crisis was the fascist Greek Golden Dawn.

I deeply hope some of participatory aspects found in things like Liquid Front make their way to this side of the Atlantic beyond what appears to be the now defunct Occupy Movement. The pessimist in me fears that the influence will flow the other way.
What the Internet has given rise to in the USA is not participatory politics but a customized to the individual mobilization machine which uses some of most manipulative practices gleaned from behavioral economics:

I think Searls might be overly optimistic at this juncture for two reasons.

1) The big-data revolution has at its base the war for the fastest supercomputer. You need very past and very powerful computers to be able to sweep all this data up and mine it for potentially usable patterns. Free services such as Face Book and Google are free because the product for sale is YOU. Sure, you can quantify yourself and lock down your information using alternative services, but this is going to take an open revolt against the cult of transparency and corporate tracking which I do not see gaining much steam yet.

2) The “Internet of things” and mobile are actually a step backward from the general computation of the PC. This at least is the compelling case made by the sci-fy author and blogger Cory Doctorow:

It’s also partially the case made by Douglas Rushkoff in his Present Shock. Companies have allowed us the “freedom” of mobile only to chain us everywhere to the world that only existed at our desks. 

I hope the real situation has more light…

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