‘Five Star’ guru bets on blockchain to fix party’s e-voting platform

Beppe Grillo (C), Luigi Di Maio (L) and Davide Casaleggio (R) pose for the media in front of the Italian Interior Ministry after presenting the new symbol of the Five Star Movement. [EPA-EFE/CARCONI]

Blockchain technologies could help to ensure transparency on the controversial voting platform where Five Star Movement’s activists make decisions, said the software owner’s Davide Casaleggio in Brussels on Tuesday (9 April).

The €50,000 fine imposed by Italy’s privacy watchdog turned the spotlight on Five Star Movement’s digital platform Rousseau, where supporters are often asked to vote on important decisions and also propose laws.

According to Italy’s data protection authority, the online platform does not meet the basic requirements of an e-voting system, such as the protection of electronic ballots and the anonymity of the voters.

Davide Casaleggio, the son of the late Five Star Movement’s co-founder Gianroberto Casaleggio, is the president of the association that controls the platform.

Although he has no formal role in the anti-establishment movement, he is considered the man that pulls the strings of the party from behind the scenes.

Speaking at a conference on digital citizenship at the European Parliament, the Five Star guru was asked about the lack of transparency in the platform.

“On voting records, we have gone through several steps, but now the system has radically changed,” he said, adding that now he considers blockchain technology as platform’s next step.

According to Casaleggio, blockchain voting has many benefits, including the fact that it would allow the simple verification of votes as well as offering the complete anonymity of ballots cast.

Casaleggio also said that Italy’s watchdog had targeted a previous version of the voting platform, no longer online.

In recent days, Five Star Movement hit out at the agency, questioning its impartiality and accusing its president Antonello Soro of being politically biased due to the fact that he was a former MP for centre-left wing party Partito Democratico.

In response, Soro defended himself, saying that the authority also adopted actions against other political forces in the past.

Casaleggio added on Tuesday that public authorities should seek inspiration from private owned platforms like Rousseau, but he ruled out the possibility of a counselling role played by his company Casaleggio Associati.

Casaleggio has in the past been blamed for raising money from his close proximity to Five Star Movement, as his small company’s net result for 2017 was €20,480 on a turnover of €1,17 million.

Five Star Movement held primaries on Rousseau to select party’s candidates for the European elections.

[Edited by Samuel Stolton and Georgi Gotev]

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