Things New and Old. Introduction to a Debate on Representation, Participation, and Technologies after the Pandemic Crisis Outbreak

During the last year we saw a great advance in the use of new technologies. Even in the political and institutional sphere – as largely noted by scholars – practices as videoconferences and e-voting/e-consulting procedures were increasingly used. We wonder if this herald to a structural transformation of institutional mechanism of representation and participation. We therefore propose to analyze the cooperation between parliaments and political institutions in general, parliamentary procedures and even the informal statements of political officials. We would like to examine, even if briefly, all these activities realized with the new technologies, and their impact on representative functions and on participation, on democratic institutions and on the public sphere. Some activities could be considered dangerous or appreciated only because of the emergency, others regarded as new opportunities for the development of democratic processes.

The Court and its secrets: which transparency?

Which are the borders of the secret, for a jurisdictional body such as a Constitutional Court? Which areas of the institution must be covered by the secret? Recently, the Italian constitutional Court has become an interesting case of study. On the one hand, the practice of press releases and initiatives such as visits to prisons and schools aim to bring the body closer to public opinion and to enhance that plan of legitimacy linked to its activity. On the other hand, the Court itself sometimes does not seem to guarantee adequate transparency in its workings, which would be capable to involve public opinion in the institutional circuit. Some interna corporis are not known (for instance, the Rules for the services and the staff), although they are essential to better understand Court’s institutional life. From this perspective, the analysis will deal with the ubi consistam of secrecy for the Court.

Are remote voting systems truly democratic?

The paper analyzes the parliamentary remote voting systems which have been adopted by Spain, UK, European Union and United States of America. Particularly, the essay focuses on the effects that virtual procedures could have on the legislative process and on democracy itself. In fact, although in a sanitary emergency the normal parliamentary sessions ought to be revisited in order to safeguard the health of Assemblies’ members, the adoption of virtual meetings risks of not guaranteeing an adequate debate on the laws and daily issues which need to be appropriately discussed by each representative. Moreover, the use of an electronic voting could not completely assure the respect of secrecy, personality and freedom of ballots. In conclusion, the essay considers the adoption of remote voting systems a dangerous practice for the legislative process since up until now it did not guarantee an adequate debate between the members of Parliaments and did not always assure an equal and fair vote.

Modern constitutionalism to the test of social networks: is it time for new sovereigns?

The pandemic has acted as a catalyst for the process towards a digital society, in which the distinction between reality and virtual life is becoming more problematic. As a consequence, social networks have become a place where users feel they can express their personality.
Therefore, these platforms have also become a medium through which to influence global public opinion, overriding traditional power structures. Even though constitutionalism was initially conceived as a system able to balance and limit individual forms of power, today it appears helpless in the face of this phenomenon, which due to its private nature has succeeded in eluding protocol.
President Trump’s social media blackout, following the Capitol Hill riots earlier in the year, revealed the extent of a force beyond limits or checks.
This piece of research will aim to address one of the biggest challenges for constitutionalism, that is to incorporate social media private law into the framework of public law.

The information to the test of the “net”

As is well known, the right to information (which includes both the right to inform and to be informed) is one of the “pillars” on which democracy is based. There is no doubt that with the advent of new technologies, the right to information takes a (partly) different attitude. It seems appropriate to reflect on the enormous information service that the internet offers, but also on the many dangers associated with it. Specifically, we will reflect on the ways in which it is “built” and conveyed information “online” through the so-called “cookies”, which allow the interests of those who “surf” to be identified. Beyond the so-called “fake news” (which will be mentioned), it can be noted that the news (even if truthful) that reaches users are in any case, at least in part, “filtered”. This may imply that the recipients have a partial vision of reality, with consequent repercussions on the level of democratic participation and on the formation of the will of individuals.