Participation in German Law
In the context of a comprehensive project concerning online participation in cooperation with the Hans-Bredow-Institute, the sub-project „e-petitions“ focuses on the e-petitions platform of the German parliament, the Bundestag.
The object of investigation is the e-petition platform of the German Bundestag. On this platform petitions from citizens can be established and then co-signed by other citizens wishing to support the matter. If, in this way, a petition reaches a quorum of 50 000 signatures within a certain period, the petitions committee has to consider its contents. Up until August 2012, co-signing an e-petition on this site was only possible under a person’s real name. Since then, an e-petition can also be signed under a pseudonym. Alongside the investigation of general patterns in submitters’ behaviour, the study intends to provide particular insight into the issue of whether allowing anonymous submissions has led to an increase in them and what users of the platform think of this possibility.
To this end, two empirical components were combined: firstly, the project team could assess a database provided in a pseudonymic form from the petitions platform. Secondly, an online questionnaire was carried out among the users of the platform and assessed. We were able to confirm and extend a succession of insights from earlier studies, among them, a spill-over effect: whereby popular petitions direct attention to the platform and thereby benefit other issues. By contrast, the findings on the shift to anonymous signings offer something new: while it did not bring an increase in the lodging of submissions, around three quarters of all submissions now operate under a pseudonym. This can be attributed predominantly to the fact that this setting is predetermined in the software – the study has thus also delivered insights into the directive power of software default settings.
Lectures and presentationsDigitising the German parliament‘s petition system: Common (mis)perceptions and legal reality
ePractice eParticipation: ICT empowering citizens. European Commission, DG Connect. EU Quarters, Brussels, Belgium: 15.10.2013
Julian Staben, Lennart Ziebarth