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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 5: Costs for Public Notice

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The principles and history of public notice have been presented in previous chapters, but what has not yet been discussed is the cost of producing and distributing these announcements. While the staff resources dedicated to the production of public notice are often slight, the cost of placing a notice in the appropriate publication seems to rankle some government activists. These expenses, in comparison to those triggered by freedom of information and open access requirements, where citizens make requests and entire offices are required to respond, are actually quite small. Nonetheless, this practice of reporting on social and political communities by means of public notice doesn’t happen for free.

Many proponents of changing the public notice system have urged moving publication to the web because, it is claimed, costs will be lowered and there will be less work involved in producing and publishing the notices. There are also claims that web distribution by its very nature will be more inclusive because it is wider, and that the response from the public will, as a result, be more robust. Questions about the population served by web distribution, the costs of server and distribution list upkeep, and the general requirements of preserving the public records so that they are accessible and accurately reproduced across the years are usually left unmentioned in the ← 83 | 84 → pleas for a shift to digital distribution. The true benefits of web posting have not yet been put to the test, so this chapter will instead examine...

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