The effective application of people power to politics through the social media is helped by an understanding of the science behind group behaviour on large scales (refer ‘People Power – A Short Discussion on Group Dynamics). When aggregated with lessons from the current activities of political campaign websites, certain principles emerge:
- The questions or propositions to be advanced in the social media petitions are ideally arrived at by consultation with participants, who are diverse and independent of each other, and have access to as much relevant information as possible, including competing points of view.
- The proposition for a petition resulting from the consultation should be that a person or institution does or does not do a certain thing.
- Once the question or proposition or action is established, there need no longer be consultation, only voting. The petition page should, however, include checked background information – and, it seems, a picture.
- There needs to be delivery of the petition result to the decision maker, preferably in a persuasive way. In a democracy, every voice counts. There is no reason a petition supported by only one person cannot legitimately be brought to the attention of a decision maker, as long as the site operator does not disadvantage other more popular campaigns.
- The site should follow through and determine the response of the decision maker, and there should then be a reflecting back to the participants in the petition of the outcome of their activities – whether it is a ‘victory’, a bringing attention to the petition to the decision maker at all, or if it was simply closed without reference to the decision maker.
- Sites that promote multiple petitions should have searchability for people to locate issues of particular interest to them. They also need to clearly distinguish current petitions for voting from past petitions in their search function.