Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Political Science
How is the internet changing the way citizens engage with politics? Beyond voting for representatives, several parties in Europe have been inviting supporters to go online and vote on issues such as leadership and policy stances. Known as technopopulism, this trend is particularly central to two emergent populist movements: Italy’s Movimento Cinque Stelle and Spain’s Podemos. Similar to how online ‘fake news’ has been changing the way the public understands current events, online-based direct democracy has already begun changing the way the public engages with political processes such as lawmaking and selecting candidates. While the rhetoric of technopopulist parties frequently highlights their usage of direct democracy as proof that they truly speak for the masses, this thesis argues that these online tools in their current iterations are problematic for reasons such as only engaging a minuscule fraction of the public and potentially obscuring undemocratic practices by party leadership.