World’s Largest Democracy? Hacked?

Today’s news yielded another pair of oddly juxtaposed news items. Starting with news from the world’s largest democracy, India, where voting machine tampering is in the news, following a recent election in Orissa province.

Strange things have happened in many states including Orissa and a lot of complaints, allegations and cases have been lodged, observed the NGO and technocrat team.“We are taking the issue up at a national level. We are not opposed to the use of EVMs but we want them to be the pride of India and therefore tamper-proof,” said Mr Prasad and Mr Rao.

Given the level of activism involved, it may be that India will soon be the world’s leader in e-voting incidents, at least as measured by number of voters potentially affected.

Another candidate for world’s largest voting body — the Internet, or in this case, the subset of net-connected people planet-wide, who elected to participate in the 100 Poll on the world’s most influential people in government, science, technology and the arts. Millions voted, or, well,  there were millions of votes, but we’re not sure how many voters. It turns out that Time’s 100 Poll voting system was hacked in a particular and clever way. Not only did the winner turn out to be “moot” (the handle for founder of the 4chan graphic BBS) but the whole poll was rigged continually so that the acronym of the names of the top 21 influential people turned out to be “Marble Cake, or The Game.” (Apologies to #5 placer Larry Brilliant, who might actually be the 5th most influential person on the planet, rather than just the B in marBle). A blog posting by Paul Lamere includes an excellent account of the details of the hack.

For the 100 hack, the local reaction here in Silicon Valley may be mainly one of wry amusement, but I expect the same may not be true with our counterparts in Bangalore, Pune, et. al. India’s election integrity NGOs are now calling for a way that to promote public confidence that India’s real elections are more trustworthy that Time’s Internet polls — with the added challenge of public pride in a country that is far less technically literate, and indeed far less literate, than the U.S. electorate that we are more used to thinking of. Heartfelt best of luck to Prasad, Rao, and compatriots in India. Now, back in Silicon Valley, it’s tea-time – a slice of marble cake, anyone?


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