Can the Internet Fix Politics?

That question is the theme of the 2010 Personal Democracy Forum, a two-day conference that merges technology with politics. Another theme that continued to be mentioned during the opening event of PdF was the ongoing disaster in the Gulf Coast, and the inability of the government and private industry to solve the crisis.

Micah Sifry noted during his welcome remarks that the real time viewing and public reaction of the oil spill is a metaphor for our times, where people can stare at the images and video, but are slow to take action. Sifry also posed the question: Will the websites, networks and tools being built facilitate long-term growth and solutions?

The event began with an impressive list of speakers, including Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia, who spoke of his websites’ ability to offer not only access to data, but also facilitate dialog. He mentioned 9/11 and the Haiti earthquakes as examples of being able to provide people an outlet in a time when broadcast news offers wide coverage but little in the way of real information or details.Interestingly, while Wales sees the value in his own website and its transparency, he expressed concern in the value of having the home value of a neighbors’ home or the myriad of details found on sex offender websites. He remarked that in government, there are some things that need to be private simply so that business can be completed.

Next, the legendary Daniel Ellsberg spoke of how he would have released the Pentagon papers of 1971 in today’s times, mentioning the immediate value in scanning the documents and simply posting them online. The conversation then questioned whether that action would have had the same effect as it did during that time, when more attention was paid on the fact that the government learned that they could not stop the exchange of information.

Ellsberg was joined on Skype by Julian Assange from WikiLeaks , whose website publishes and comments on leaked documents alleging government and corporate misconduct. Ellsberg spoke of the fact that his website “makes whistleblowers the heroes” and that courage it takes to expose wrongdoings encourages others to do the same, creating more transparency in government.

Video from PDF is streaming live at .

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Event hashtag is #pdf10.