A company may announce a commitment to emit less CO2 in order to hide a court ruling on a toxic spill, but that doesn’t make the company any greener. A political party may submit parity lists to elections to silence criticism for restricting the right to abortion, but that doesn't make it any more feminist. A government can install and promote participation on digital platforms like Decidim to deactivate social movements that threaten its continuity, but that doesn't make it more democratic.
From Decidim we cannot control what governments do with the platform; its Affero GPL 3 license allows any person or organization to use it without asking us for permission. What we can do is to design a fine software for democratic participation that facilitates and catalyzes processes of social self-organization and self-management on a large scale. We can also generate tools and standards of democratic quality for the use of the platform, including a demanding social contract (a line in continuous improvement within the project). Finally, the Decidim community can show its rejection to certain government operations and uses of the platform. That is the objective of this statement.
We will give two recent examples that we consider clear cases of participatory washing. In March 2019, the UN denounced civil rights restrictions and excessive use of force against demonstrators in France (1). A few months later, the French government organized a Grand Débat that has received harsh criticisms (2).
More recently, the Government of Chile contacted Decidim Team in Barcelona, asking for help in setting up the platform, to start a survey among its citizenry. After knowing this intention, and the preliminary reports from human rights organisations, which indicate regular violations of the rights of demonstrators in recent weeks (including torture and sexual violence) (3), the Decidim Team decided not to support this participatory washing operation. It won’t offer support to similar operations in the future, either.
Beyond this refusal, from the Decidim community, we want social movements like those in Chile to know that they have our full support.
Decidim is more than a free software project. Decidim is a technopolitical project to democratize society. For all those who fight for that goal: we are with you, for real democracy.