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Public Participation and Internet Regulation

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Public participation, a process involving citizen or stakeholder engagement in decision-making, has gained increasing emphasis in recent years. Interestingly, the emergence of the concepts of “e-governance”, “e-government” and “e-democracy” reflects the increasing connection of online tools such as the Internet with the concept of public participation (Freeman, 2013). Does governmental regulation of the Internet necessarily not promote public participation then? I think not; to my mind, there are two different kinds of regulation – “positive” and “negative” regulation, implemented with the purpose of promoting and restricting participation respectively. Whether these regulations indeed do promote or restrict effective public participation (which is to be determined by the impact of public participation on business, government and society) still remain to be seen.
Positive internet regulation commonly come in the form of online public participation platforms; one example is the U.S. Federal government website “regulations.gov”, a portal allowing the public to participate in the rulemaking processes of some Federal government agencies. Such regulation purports to provide increased access to governmental information, greater platforms to facilitate public dialogue, reduced cost of participation and improved ease of organizing support or opposition to decisions; thereby empowering both the individual and groups within the society and promotes greater public participation (Leighninger, 2011). Yet it has been said that the theory of public participation does not accord with its practice and may not be truly useful in its application (Noveck, 2004-2005). The highly divergent nature of comments in terms of quality and quantity makes it ...

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