The Internet world used us to everything being "free" (as in a "free beer" - not as in "free speech"). However, every activity has a cost.
In the case of an online service, this cost is that of the platfom hosting, the wages of the administrators that maintain it in operation, and of the developpers that make the software to evolve.
"Free" online services are paid for by an advertising business model. This model has two major drawbacks when it is meant to ensure democracy:
- first, the users are not the customers any more. They are the goods being sold, and sold to the true customers who are the companies purchasing advertising space
- worse still, these advertising companies concentrate in their hands the economic power of life or death over the platform. They can decide to kill it if the proposals that are being elaborated on it are detrimental to their interests.
Democracy on the opposite is a regime of distributed power. This also is valid for the power of economic life or death over the platform. From this point of view, the fact of asking a small, but uniform contribution from all users is the most efficient and fair means to ensure that this power of economic life or death is distributed among all.
This model is the one used by online media and services that are weary of their independence towards the pressure of economic powers, such as Médiapart in France or die Tageszeitung in Germany.