We’ve spoken before about how the tech industry has developed to such an extent that it now plays an integral role in many areas of our lives. While it’s easy to focus on those areas that immediately affect us, like the way we do business or socialise, it’s important to acknowledge the way technology trends have affected larger scale societal processes, such as politics.
Technology’s influence on politics is incredibly broad, ranging from massive global events like the Arab Spring, to digital minutiae like a 3am Trump tweet. In this blog post, we’ll look at a few key ways technology trends have affected the political process around the world, and what it might indicate for things to come.
Can the tech industry influence political results?
The United States presidential election has been one of the ugliest political contests in recent history. The mudslinging and name calling has in no way been helped by the endless accusations of fraud and corruption – some of which has been targeted at the tech industry. In June 2016, a video from Source went viral that pointed out perceived differences in Google’s autocomplete suggested search terms for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
The implication here is that Google was censoring suggestions that could vilify Clinton while not doing the same for Trump, thereby influencing, to a certain extent, the information people were exposed to through their search engine. Google has officially denied this practice, blaming the perceived preference on a misunderstanding of their search algorithm.
Regardless of whether there’s any merit to the claims, it’s worth considering the extent to which technology trends and tech industry giants can influence an election. American psychologist and author Robert Epstein has recently suggested that Facebook and Google have the power to shift 600,000 and 6.5 million votes, respectively, by manipulating search results or sending “Go out and vote!” reminders to certain demographics of its user base.
Technology trends are changing the democratic process
One of the most definitive ways that technology can impact the political process is how people in democratic countries cast their vote. While yet to be implemented on a large scale in most democracies, cloud technology in particular shows immense potential for making the voting process easier and more accessible.
As described in this great article from ZDNet, which admittedly focuses on the United States, cloud voting through mobile devices would be a lot simpler, it would guarantee greater voter turnout and, considering how advanced cloud security already is in a business context, be a lot more secure and safer than current ballot-casting methods.
Internet voting, on the other hand, has been tried by a dozen or so developed countries since the turn of the millennium, it’s been plagued with issues – from internet security and voter registration, to independent verification and a simple lack of public confidence. The national census fail earlier this year is a prime example of how technology in the public sphere can go horribly wrong when there isn’t sufficient IT security. While certain areas of Australia like New South Wales have successfully used online voting in state by-elections, it’ll still be some time before it’s used at a federal level.
While it’s impossible to predict exactly how technology trends will shape global politics, certain technologies like big data and cloud computing have substantial political potential. One can only hope that when politicians and pundits up their technological game, they take a proactive approach to network and data security.
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