Free computing, reinforcement of democracy

On January 11, the commission chaired by sociologist Gérald Bronner handed over to Emmanuel Macron a highly publicized report, Enlightenment in the digital age. Thirty ways to resist online misinformation which, alongside platform regulation measures, emphasize the need to work from data and free software.

Digital solutions where data and source codes of computer programs (their recipes) are made available to be freely audited, copied, exploited and improved collectively.

→ ANALYSIS. Conspiracy, fake news… The Bronner commission deciphers the “informational chaos”

Thanks to this principle, major projects, such as the Firefox search engine or the Wikipedia encyclopedia, have been born. They are today particularly relevant in the process of evolution of our democracies.

→ READ. “Long live democracy! “, our file

This transparency is essential. Because those who write the software write the law of use, explains Pierre-Yves Gosset, general delegate of Framasoft, the main association for the promotion of free software. From the moment the processes democratic are also becoming digital (electronic voting in the United States and perhaps tomorrow in France), understanding how the code works and reflecting on its use is essential, even with basic notions. How, if not, to properly analyze phenomena such as the breakthrough of the extremes, prospering on the basis of divisive tweets and short videos, knowingly put forward by the algorithms of certain actors for pure questions of audiences and profits? »

A new media education platform

Independent of the state but launched on the same day as the delivery of the Bronner report, De facto is a new media literacy and fact-checking platform. Based on the free solution XWikiit brings together Agence France-Presse (AFP), the fact-checking services of newsrooms such as ReleaseFranceinfo or 20 minutesresearchers and students from Sciences Po through its Médialab and its school of journalism and associations of educators around the Center for Media and Information Education (Clemi).

→ MAINTENANCE. “False information on the Internet has a deleterious effect on democracy”

Alongside numerous fact-checking articles from all political persuasions, De facto provides access to studies, educational resources and tools such as the InVID-WeVerify Chrome browser extension, which allows you to go back to the source a photo or video found on the Internet. “All our tools are free, explains Dominique Cardon, director of the Médialab at Sciences Po. Everyone can, if they want, enrich De facto, or even create their own version. This participation is central because it is what forces pluralism and diversity. »

“We adhere to information through our conversations”

Sufficient tools to avoid the dissemination of conspiracy theses? “ It is likely that fact-checking has no direct influence on the most radical people, pursues Dominique Cardon. But the very majority situation is hesitation. We adhere to information through our conversations. It is enough for one of our relatives, colleague or friend, to be very affirmative for our opinion to be turned upside down, and for us to remain without answers. It is by putting ourselves in a position to write and produce information that we can question each argument and enter into a real exchange. »

An exchange to extend to then get involved in the citizen debate. Many free solutions, intended for communities or associations, allow this. They are called DemocracyOS, Decidim or Publik. “These platforms are powerful tools that help to work together, vote on a participatory budget, monitor the implementation of each project. They adapt according to the needs, on the type of ballot for example, majority or simple majority “,explains Pierre-Yves Gosset, who launched with Framasoft new collective decision support tools, Framavoxand Mobilizon, alternatives to Facebook events.

“The idea was born during the 2018 climate marches. We wanted a flexible tool to gather and engage, guaranteeing privacy and not using the data collected to offer us other things. , even if they are militant actions” he explains.

The Elyze affair, the “Tinder” of the presidential election

Elyze is another striking example of the interest of free software. At the beginning of January, this application became in a few days the most downloaded in France, making it possible to test its affinity with the proposals of candidates for the presidential like the dating app Tinder. But many anomalies, distorting the results, are detected. Faced with the bronca, the two co-creators of Elyze, François Mari and Grégoire Cazcarra, make the code of the application public on the specialized platform GitHub. Programming errors are quickly identified and corrected with the help of the IT community.

“Free software is a necessary tool for a democracy living in the digital age”, reacts Pierre-Yves Gosset. But technology is not everything. ” True, in this case, the publication of the code prevented malfunctions. But I don’t want to live in a world where the data I provide dictates what I should buy or who I should vote for. » To be able to debate and refuse an innovation upstream when it contravenes our ethics? A great challenge for our democracies.

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Free computing, reinforcement of democracy

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