Right now, all social networks are only good for entertainment and what I call the political side effects. We have all observed the influence of the masses on the political decisions, especially on who to elect to office, through the various social network channels. This is now a clear reality. The fact that social networks are going to take over news wires, cable TV, and radio, is also clear and inevitable. Can't we watch a football game on Twitter today? Can't we watch the United States presidential election debates on Twitter? Sure we can! And this is by itself a paradigm shift. However, I'm not going to focus on these issues in this article. The question is how far can this political effect travel into a pivotal role making social networks a necessary tool to continue the political process? 




What I certainly can imagine is this crazy idea: let us elect a person to any government office through a Twitter poll. Why not? I have seen the faces of the majority when such an idea is expressed; most people do not take it seriously and aren't convinced that Twitter polls (or alike) can actually take over the pen and paper that is used to cast a vote. I'm going to make a quick comparison here to see if that is a reasonable concern. 

Voting MethodSpeedConveniencePrivacySecurityReachability
Electronic voting machineFastModerateModerateLowPoor
Pen and paper and physical ballotSlowModerateModerateLowPoor
Twitter pollFastEasyLowHighExcellent

If we take a critical look at the table above, we can see some trade off between the more classical methods and the Twitter method but we can also see clear advantages. Believe me, if you vote with Twitter, you're enjoying a higher level of security, you can reach your polling station with a click, and it's of course fast and convenient. I also agree that Twitter won't be as private as the classical methods. It's a lot easier to associate your vote with your profile and there's nothing much you can do about that. However, there are ways to resolve this. Since Twitter polls are not really designed to elect presidents, the current technology is a little short on privacy. However, you can see that it's a descent method as it is. 

In fact, the most important criticism of using Internet for voting is the privacy issue. Voters are not willing to give up privacy for all the other benefits, even if the security is really higher than the other methods. However, this is a computer science challenge to improve on the current technologies to make this paradigm shift happen. There are numerous advanced cryptographic methods that can assist in realizing this goal. I'm sure, we're not far away.