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Social Media and Participatory Democracy

Public Notice and the World Wide Web

Shannon Martin E.

Public notices are usually provided in the form of a document when something is about to be done or recently has been done by government. For about two hundred years these notices have often taken the form of legal notices placed as classified ads in newspapers.
With the onset of social media, government as well as personal information can be accessed at a push of a button for all to see. This book addresses the kinds of changes that public notice and published public records have experienced as governments around the world try to accommodate the digital formats for information and World Wide Web publishing, as well as presenting historical and legal underpinnings for the broader claim of a public requirement to be informed about government.
While there is concern that government information on the web will fall pray to pranks and misuse, the author argues that it is possible to reduce this risk by looking carefully at the intent of public notice and the history of democratic evolution. The book concludes with recommendations for smoothing the transition from a paper-based world of records to an environment of speed and virtual portability.
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Chapter 4: Modern Examples of Web Posting

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Extract

The previous chapters have provided an outline of the traditions—both social and legal—for public notice. This chapter will refine and build on our understanding of both the uses and values of public notice in an increasingly digital world by looking at examples as we find them on the World Wide Web.179 Though the move to public notices on the web has not been codified by many governments, this platform is increasingly common around the world for both social and legal advertisements. It is sometimes used for no reason, often “just because” it is easy to do and quickly provides cover for the complaint that government operates in a vacuum.

For example, the website for New York’s LaGuardia Airport carried a box headlined “Public Notice” with a letter attached that invited the air carriers of LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy International Airport, and Newark Liberty International Airport to attend allocation hearings for the use of “Apron Hardstand” funds to be collected through passenger facility charges.180 An industrious reader of webpages might be able to make sense of why this matters and to whom, but by and large the casual viewer of the webpage probably left the link quickly to get back to any business at hand. In short, the use of this website for traditional public notification was probably minimal, and yet there it was.

If the purpose of public notice is to make the business of government easily accessible at reasonable cost, then the web...

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