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A declaration co-authored by one million people?

29 March 2005

Here's an interesting innovation in online activism:

A whole bunch of American organisations (most of them faith-based) are getting their members together 30 March to write a "Declaration for Peace and Justice and against the Iraq war". They're using a new piece of online writing software called Synanim. Users log on and have a certain amount of time to write their contributions in small groups. Then everyone chooses the iterations they like the most, bit by bit. The software tallies the "votes" and combines it all into a document that can be reworked again by all.

I think you have to "be there" to really understand how it works. They promise it's as easy as buying a book on Amazon, so if you agree with the goals and concerns of the organisations you should check it out (and let me know what it's like). They're expecting (hoping?) one million individuals (!) will take part in the "Write In" which is scheduled throughout a couple of different sessions during the day.

If it works, it's a pretty amazing way to reach a "naturally emergent consensus," as it says on Synanim's website, on such a large scale. Software that lets you edit Word documents together with someone else over the internet tends to be a little less ambitious. I'm personally rather glad that openDemocracy authors don't insist on watching their articles be edited in real-time...

I heard about it all via a TrueMajority email. That's Ben Cohen's (from Ben & Jerry's) online activism project. He's also got his checkbook in Religious Leaders For Sensible Priorities and Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities. They don't seem to have much presence on the Net, but people talk about them...

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals


To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.


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