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How social networking is changing Italian politics

Groups like the Pirate Party and prolific twitter users like Stephen Fry, might help remind us from time to time of certain freedoms that seem to be harder for ourselves and politicians to remember as the years go on, but one man in Italy is doing far more with his online presence – shaking the very foundations of modern democracy and pushing for real reform.

The man behind it is all is a comedian called Beppe Grillo, who now heads a group called M5S (Movimento 5 Stelle, or the Five Star Movement) and has been active online for many years, leveraging his near one million Twitter followers and huge numbers of blog readers, into taking action against corruption in Italian politics. On top of this, he's rallied them around key issues to the point that his fans have begun to sway elections.

Some of the political ideals that Grillo claims to be behind are a little out of the ordinary. He proposes that the government should institute a 20 hour working week, halt all interest payments on current debts – thereby defaulting on them – the introduction of new anti-corruption legislation and a proposal to replace the current measurement of the country's prosperity – gross domestic product – with gross domestic happiness.

Hey, it's someone with political influence that doesn't look smarmy

As Wired points out however, Grillo will never be able to run for political office in order to make these proposals within government, since he has a criminal record, but the sheer number of supporters behind him, makes M5S one of the most powerful political groups in the country. Its rallies have regularly brought out over 100,000 people and the group managed to win local elections in Parma last May.

We've seen the effects of social networking and inter-connectivity that gave rise to the Arab Spring over the past few years. This is the same sort of thing occurring within a democratic European nation.

KitGuru Says: While some of the aims of M5S perhaps seem a bit outlandish, its achievements are astounding and show that for all those that believe the current political system doesn't work, there are new methods emerging that could very well cause its foundations to sway just enough to make a difference.

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