The Internet and Elections: Click for Democracy

The internet has changed the way people shop, learn, receive news and prepare to travel. It would be surprising if it did not have an impact upon the way we conduct elections. This impact will be overstated, as is so often the case in the hyperbolic world of the dot coms, but there can be little doubt that politics will adapt to online communication, as it once did to print and then broadcasting. So, what changes can we expect?

The World Today Published 1 May 2001 Updated 26 October 2020 3 minute READ

Stephen Coleman

Director, Hansard e-democracy programme

The internet is anarchistic; elections are highly regulated. How can the strict rules governing democratic elections be applied on the unregulated net? In most democracies, candidates and parties are required to account for campaign expenditure. But how much does it cost to send an email, run a website or acquire a database? What is the cost of a link from a supporter website to an official campaign site?

What happens if a website is set up which appears to be in the name of a candidate, but actually exists to attack that candidate? There were dozens of these in last year’s US election. What protection do candidates have against online defamation – particularly if it comes from outside their national jurisdiction? Net politics will present new problems of regulation which few governments have began to tackle.

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