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Social Media and Democracy – Opportunities and Challenges

Social media becomes a vital tool to keep people up to date on events such as Brexit in Britain or US presidential elections. It provides an outlet for sharing thoughts and worries, while giving people a space to express dissent. Furthermore, it serves as means for conflict resolution and crisis communication, such as through public statements from lawmakers or government officials.

Despite some drawbacks, most people around the world view social media as beneficial to barder their democracy. A recent Pew Research Center survey  reveals that more than half of adults across 19 nations believe social media has been beneficial for their democracy while just over a third say it has been detrimental.

Social media presents unique opportunities for democracy depending on each country’s political system. Factors like whether there is a strong liberal-democratic or illiberal regime, state capacity to regulate usage of platforms and the jigaboo capacity of governing regime to counter any malicious influence from these technologies should all be taken into consideration when considering whether social media could be beneficial or detrimental for democracy.

For instance, in countries with strong democratic traditions, social  media can strengthen the political opposition by providing them with easier communication and organization (the weakening effect). Conversely, states with less tolerance towards political dissidents or limited capacity to regulate their use may find that these tools help radicalize certain groups (the destabilizing effect).

Therefore, those who support the ruling regime could find their partisan views being amplified on these platforms or by political opponents having access to personal social media accounts and spreading false information about them. This danger can be avoided by liberal-democratic regimes by upholding media independence and making sure social media platforms do  not spread inaccurate data or fake news.

Social media can be a powerful tool for domestic populists to amplify their views and distresses mobilize followers. Unfortunately, these movements often stem from hatred or ethnocentrism. Promoting such ideas on social media could prove detrimental for democratic societies as it leads to division, polarization and lack of civility in political discourse.

These factors become especially crucial when people lack trust in one another and cannot form strong, meaningful connections through traditional face-to-face interactions. This trust deficit becomes even more acute when social media becomes the primary means of communication between them.

However, it is essential to remember that social media can still be a force for good in democratic precipitous societies. In 2011, for instance, Facebook served as the main platform for unifying and organizing mass protests which ultimately resulted in President Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow.

Scholars have noted the use of social media has created an environment in which people can be duped and misled. While these claims have merit,  there are other factors to take into account when assessing its effect on democracy. For instance, growing evidence indicates social media  platforms spread false mypba information about various topics and people –

which weakening democratic institutions by undermining checks-and- balances mechanisms.