Iceland is finally overhauling its constitution, and it has turned to the Internet to get input from citizens. More specifically, the 25-member council drafting the new constitution is reaching out to its citizens through Facebook (although Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr are also being used).
Two thirds of Iceland's population (approximately 320,000) is on Facebook, so the constitutional council's weekly meetings are broadcast live not only on the council's website, but on the social network as well. "It is possible to register through other means, but most of the discussion takes place via Facebook," Berghildur Bernhardsdottir, spokeswoman for the constitutional review project, told the Associated Press. "The sort of argumentative and negative discussion that has been common on Icelandic blogs and news sites, especially since the economic collapse, has been almost entirely absent."
When the North Atlantic island nation gained independence from Denmark in 1944, it simply took the Danish constitution and made a few minor adjustments, such as substituting the word "president" for "king." A thorough review of the constitution has been expected ever since, but action hasn't taken place until recently. The crisis in 2008, when Iceland's main commercial banks collapsed within a week, the krona currency plummeted, and protests toppled the government, has finally put an end to the wait.
The comprehensive review of the constitution is being carried out with the direct participation of the Icelandic people. The Internet component is the most direct route for most Icelanders to have their say: members of the public must provide their names and addresses, and can then submit online recommendations, which are approved by local staff to avoid Internet heckling. The ideas are then passed on to the council, and are open for discussion online.