So what’s undemocratic about having a second referendum?

One of the things that really baffles me about British politics at the moment is Brexiteers’ insistence that putting the Theresa May deal to a second referendum would be “undemocratic”. Au contraire, I think it’s the only democratic thing to do. One of the basic principles of good interface design in software is that whenever a user indicates that s/he deliberately or inadvertently intends to do something that would be damaging or that s/he might regret, the system first puts up a dialog box to check that the signalled action was in fact deliberate and that the user is comfortable with the consequences. If there were a second referendum and a majority voted to leave on the May terms or remain in the EU then that would be a truly democratic decision (you could call it informed consent) and even those of us who disagreed with it would have to accept it.

An existential threat to liberal democracy?

This morning’s Observer column:

At last, we’re getting somewhere. Two years after Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, we’re finally beginning to understand the nature and extent of Russian interference in the democratic processes of two western democracies. The headlines are: the interference was much greater than what was belatedly discovered and/or admitted by the social media companies; it was more imaginative, ingenious and effective than we had previously supposed; and it’s still going on.

We know this because the US Senate select committee on intelligence commissioned major investigations by two independent teams. One involved New Knowledge, a US cybersecurity firm, plus researchers from Columbia University in New York and a mysterious outfit called Canfield Research. The other was a team comprising the Oxford Internet Institute’s “Computational Propaganda” project and Graphika, a company specialising in analysing social media.
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Last week the committee released both reports. They make for sobering reading…

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