The failures of the Five Star Movement’s Rousseau

The Five Star Movement, a populist party, which is currently in power along with the League in Italy initially grew out of Il Blog delle Stelle (formerly Beppe Grillo’s blog).  The Five Star Movement was founded by comedian Beppe Grillo, along with Gianroberto Casaleggio, a web strategist in 2009. As well as the blog and The Five Star Movement’s heavy use of social media, it consults its supporters on candidates, policies and partnerships via a software system/ internet platform called Rousseau. Rousseau allows members of the Five Star Movement to choose between approved candidates for local, regional, national and European elections, suggest and debate new laws and policies, and vote in consultations. 

However, the system has been criticised for its lack of reliability, lack of security, lack of transparency and for being open to manipulation. In response to Rousseau’s security flaws, Italy’s Data Protection Authority opened an investigation and former Five Star Movement members reportedly criticised the platform and questioned the validity of the nomination processes for general election candidates and the integrity of the secret ballot. Additionally, unauthorised access to various related websites was identified. 

The Italian Data Protection Authority (Garante per la protezione dei dati personali) issued recommendations in December 2017, started an investigation in September 2018 in relation to Rosseau and various websites connected to the Five Star Movement, and then on April 4, 2019, fined Rousseau 50,000 Euros for various data protection failures.