Impact of Social Media on Democracy

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Interpret, understand and implement the adverse effects of social media on the democratic governing body of a society and how a lack in the possession of experience, skills and intelligence in a governing body may lead to a deterioration of the economic and political conditions of a society. Furthermore, understand how immense spread of propaganda can affect the voting system, leading to the selection of authoritarian nominees based on limited knowledge of factual information. Judge how social media can decrease diversity in opinions and ideas, crippling one of the core principles of democracy, which is appreciating and implementing the suggestions of a vast population. Learn and preach folks!

Submitted: May 26, 2017

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Submitted: May 26, 2017

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Momshad Ahmed

Impact of Social Media on Democracy

23/5/2017

The system of democracy is responsible for the formation of a governing body of a state through the means of fair elections, wherein votes are equal regardless of race or background. However social media can cause the rapid spread of the varied perspectives, including positive and negative comments about the nominated representative. I believe that social media has a negative impact on the perspectives of individuals, because when civilians are viewing the propaganda posts which majorly comprises of opinions rather than facts, their viewpoint about a nominated representative changes, which may result in the selection of an illegitimate candidate who boasts minimal skills in the field of producing legislative decisions and handling the affairs of the state, affecting the political and economic condition of a state.

Social media can influence the credibility of democratic personnel, eventually harming his/her career. Social media allows political personnel to portray his/her personal life, which may consist of illicit behavior. Therefore even if an individual possesses required skills and attributes for the respective political position, he/she may not be accepted for the position in the government by the authorities because of a probable repetition of such behavior during the course of his/her job. The inappropriate usage may also lead to a change in democratic campaigns, since a sense of distrust and ambiguity may arise amongst civilians who are active in social media and have viewed the content posted by the nominated officials. This may further add to the credibility issue of the respective nominee and his campaign. (1) The forced resignation of the former US representative, Anthony Weiner due to twitter sexting scandal is an example of the removal of political personnel. His resignation has resulted in the loss of skill and intelligence he may have possessed, which may affect the quality of the democratic decisions made in the future. If government officials are overthrown due to social media scandals, a large political vacuum may be created, allowing governing parties with limited experience of knowledge and understanding of politics to take over the governing authority.

Social media is responsible for spreading mass propaganda and varied opinions of civilians who are active on social media, persuading them to vote for a nominee based on opinions rather than agreed-upon facts. Social media provides a platform for people to critic and accept the ideas of others.  Since accessibility to internet is high, there is more number of people using social networks. Government officials or their workers may attempt to persuade readers into voting for their campaign by posting fake news and biased information, which may be repeated numerous times as it spreads, leading people to accept the fake news as a fact. (2) In terms of fake news and propaganda, heaps of fake news virally spread throughout Facebook and Twitter during the US presidential elections and the UK Brexit situation. (3)Random civilians attempted to sway the mass population using social media into voting for Donald trump by participating in the Great Meme War, conducted by a pro-trump page called Gold Emperor trump. They attempted to convert the public opinion through internet memes, posts and online media. The outburst of social media posts have resulted in the change in viewpoints, resulting in the majority of people voting for the Trump based on bias in social media. (4)The clinical professor at the University of Southern California states that a person is willing to find likeminded people who consistently reinforce their perspective, eventually changing their opinion.

Democracy accepts diversity of viewpoints, consisting of balance between left-wing and right-wing information. Often corporations attempt to provide information that is restrictive and supports the right-wing references. This is done when a limited number of corporations control the media. (5)Attempts by corporations to tone down the radical spread of labor information was by prosecutions and raising taxes for labor media during the period of the evolution of media in England. When corporations are raising taxes, they want to make a profitable business out of the media. Thus, they would provide information that does not highlight the negative aspects of the corporations, and the audience may desire, resulting in a lack of diversity in information. This often creates a mindset amongst civilians that the corporations are contributing significantly in the society, resulting in a change of vote favoring the right-wing population and undermining the left-wing population. (6) For example, Australia consists of high cost media ownership, wherein the two companies ruling include Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, (which was founded in Adelaide) and John Fairfax Holdings. Australia has been ranked high by Press freedom due to its lack of diversity in media ownership.

It has been claimed that social media increases voter participation, resulting in a diversity of opinions from the civilians, allowing the legislations to be fair and just for the society. (2) During the 2010 elections, 57% of voters are likely to persuade others to vote. It has also been claimed that the higher amount of participation may prevent corruption in the society. However, increased voter participation may attract voters who are not credible in terms of educational and family background, for which there may be votes based on propaganda rather than facts. This can affect the state’s economic and political condition. (8) A 30-week social media analysis states that there were twice as many “leave” supporters than “remain” supporters on Instagram, causing people who are confused about voting to consider Brexit. (7) Immediately after the decision, the currency rates dropped by -15 percent. The exchange rate for GBP is now lower. This has caused businesses to relocate, making it difficult for democratic officials to legislate without the opinion of the right-wing.

In conclusion, the quality of democracy and production of valid legislations depend on the level of education and training a person receives regarding the skills and knowledge required to carry out democratic procedures and requirements. Since the democracy depends on the level of education, social media can impact the educational sector at a great scale. As people refer to social media, especially people belonging to the maturing years, there is high amount of exposure to fake news and propaganda, which may cause an alteration of voting. A person, who has a poor political background and has depended on social media and the spread of propaganda in order to vote, is likely to be performing poorly during a situation where democratic decisions involving the public are essential. Eventually, if the legitimacy of education deteriorates due to social media bias, such as the portrayal of right wing information by corporations in Australia, the political condition, involving vital decisions regarding the development of the state, may decrease as well.

 

Bibliography:

  1. TImes, New York. "Social Networking ProCon.org." Are Social Networking Sites Good for Our Society? ProCon.org, 4 Apr. 2015. Web. 15 May 2017. <http://socialnetworking.procon.org/>.
  2. Howard, Phil, and Author Phil Howard Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University. "Phil Howard." Culture Digitally. Culturedigitally.org, 14 Nov. 2016. Web. 15 May 2017. <http://culturedigitally.org/2016/11/is-social-media-killing-democracy/>.
  3. Epoch Times. "'Great Meme War' Could Hit the Media." The Epoch Times. Jack Phillips, 11 Nov. 2016. Web. 23 May 2017. <http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/2184823-4chan-reddits-the_donald-may-take-great-meme-war-to-the-media/>.
  4. Kapko, Matt. "How Social Media Is Shaping the 2016 Presidential Election." CIO. CIO, 29 Sept. 2016. Web. 23 May 2017. <http://www.cio.com/article/3125120/social-networking/how-social-media-is-shaping-the-2016-presidential-election.html>.
  5. Herman, Edward S. (n.d.): n. pag. MANUFACTURING CONSENT. The Political Economy of the Mass Media, 3 Nov. 1988. Web. 23 May 2017. <https://focalizalaatencion.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/herman-chomsky-2002-manufacturingconsent.pdf>.
  6. Marlow Lain. "Concentration of Media Ownership." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 11 May 2017. Web. 23 May 2017. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concentration_of_media_ownership#Australia>.
  7. X, Tor F. "Brexit and Its Strong Impact on Currency Exchange Rates." Finance | Expatica the Netherlands. Expatica, 3 Oct. 2016. Web. 16 May 2017. <http://www.expatica.com/nl/finance/Brexit-currency-impact-Brexit-currency-rates_811031.html>.
  8. Association, Political Studies. "Impact of Social Media on the Outcome of the EU Referendum." EU Referendum Analysis 2016. Loughborough University, 04 July 2016. Web. 16 May 2017. <http://www.referendumanalysis.eu/eu-referendum-analysis-2016/section-7-social-media/impact-of-social-media-on-the-outcome-of-the-eu-referendum/>.


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