( A Slow read of twenty minutes)
Democracy has many strengths, including the capacity for self-correction, but the question is can it survive social media.
The word ‘democracy’ has its origins in the Greek language. It combines two shorter words: ‘demos’ meaning whole citizen living within a particular city-state and ‘kratos’ meaning power or rule.
Democracy of sorts had existed for centuries but there is no absolute definition of democracy. The term is elastic and expands and contracts according to the time, place and circumstances of its use.
Meaningful democracy only arrived at a national level in 1906, when Finland became the first country to abolish race and gender requirements for both voting and for serving in government.
Even in established democracies, flaws in the system have become worryingly visible and disillusion with politics is rife. Yet just a few years ago democracy looked as though it would dominate the world. The combination of globalization and the digital revolution has made some of democracy’s most cherished institutions look outdated.
It is far short of the settled, comfortable state of maturity that many of its early adherents expected (or at least hoped) it would be able to claim after decades of effort.
Just a few years ago, Facebook and Twitter were hailed as tools for democracy activists, enabling movements like the Arab Spring to flourish.
Today, the tables have turned as fears grow over how social media may have been manipulated to disrupt the US election, and over how authoritarian governments are using the networks to clamp down on dissent.
They are fast becoming tools for social control.
So has democracy’s global advance come to a halt, and may even be in reverse.
The notion that winning an election entitles the majority to do whatever it pleases no longer holds water.
Since the dawn of the modern democratic era in the late 19th century, democracy has expressed itself through nation-states and national parliaments. People elect representatives who pull the levers of national power for a fixed period. But this arrangement is now under assault from both above and below.
From above, globalization has changed national politics profoundly.
From below Modern technology is implementing a new modern version with national politicians surrendering more and more power to Social Media.
For example over trade and financial flows, to global markets and supranational bodies, and may thus find that they are unable to keep promises they have made to voters.
International organizations such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organisation, and the European Union might have extended their influence, but they no longer have the power to implement what they preach.
There is a compelling logic too much of this:
The fragility of the United Nations influence elsewhere has become increasingly apparent with the state of the world.
How can anyone Organisation or a single country deal with problems like climate change or tax evasion?
National politicians have also responded to globalization by limiting their discretion and handing power to unelected technocrats in some areas. The number of countries with independent central banks, for example, has increased from about 20 in 1980 to more than 160 today.
So is the power now in the hands of multi Clongormentts like Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Mircosoft etc.
Certainly, the perception that democracy in decline has become more widespread than at any time during the past quarter-century. Erosion of freedom over the past few years, adopting smarter methods for m of subversion
There are four main sorts of Democracy.
- Direct democracy
- Representative democracy
- Constitutional democracy
- Monitory democracy
A liberal democracy (that is, one that champions the development and well-being of the individual) is organised in such a way as to define and limit power so as to promote legitimate government within a framework of justice and freedom.
Social media is a double-edged sword it allows us to speak truth to power but on the other hand, it allows power to manipulate public opinion and polarize the electorate.
Citizens use it to speak truth to power, and authoritarian governments use it to spread misinformation.
Twitter users got more misinformation, polarizing and conspiratorial content than professionally produced news.”
They fake petition signatures. They skew poll results and recommendation engines.
Rather than a complete totalitarianism based on fear and the blocking of information, the newer methods include demonizing online media and mobilizing armies of supporters or paid employees who muddy the online waters with misinformation, information overload, doubt, confusion, harassment, and distraction.”
And yes, governments are increasing their efforts to censor the internet, but that’s because they recognize that the internet poses a threat to their control.
Every authoritarian regime has social media campaigns targeting their own populations.
If the liberal world order is indeed coming apart under pressure from
the authoritarians, the future of democracy will be deeply affected.
Social media firms are “largely immune from responsibility” in the legal sense, but that “in the court of public opinion it is a different matter, and future US/EU legislation seems likely if they don’t address these issues in a meaningful way.
So what is the answer?
Is social media basically good, or does it have a “negative impact on society”
Social Media has truly democratized media and given everyone a medium through which to be heard.
It has also opened the system up to those who would exploit it to push their own agendas. The platforms are now looking to police this, but it’ll likely always play a part.
To make democracy work, we must be participants, not simply observers.
One who does not vote has no right to complain.
Here are a few questions to mull over.
What can be done to fight citizens’ political alienation and distrust?
Are representative democracy and greater public participation the answer or do we need to think beyond current practices?
How can the cultural and historical factors involved and reflected in present developments help us look into the future?
What knowledge is needed to understand and inform decision-making in the future?
Which values are and which values must be at the base of decision-making?
If we are indeed heading for a Smartphone Algorithms Democracy: Who, or What will be in control.
The algorithms behind social media platforms convert popularity into legitimacy, creating echo chambers, overwhelming the public square with multiple, conflicting assertions.
Today, social media acts as an accelerant, and an at-scale content platform and distribution channel, for both viral “dis”-information (the deliberate creation and sharing of information known to be false) and “mis”-information.
“Populist” leaders use these platforms, often aided by trolls, “hackers for hire” and bots, on open networks such as Twitter and YouTube.
Sometimes they are seeking to communicate directly with their electorate. In using such platforms, they subvert established protocol, shut down dissent, marginalize minority voices, project soft power across borders, normalize hateful views, showcase false momentum for their views, or create the impression of tacit approval of their appeals to extremism.
And they are not the only actors attempting to use these platforms to manipulate political opinion — such activity is now acknowledged by governments of democratic countries.
In addition, advanced methods for capturing personal data have led to sophisticated psychographic analysis, behavioral profiling, and micro-targeting of individuals to influence their actions via so-called “dark ads.” to self-censor or opt out of participating in public discourse.
Currently, there are few options for redress. At the same time, platforms are faced with complex legal and operational challenges with respect to determining how they will manage speech, a task made all the more difficult since norms vary widely by geographic and cultural context.
Every democracy needs its justice system, so we must “catch up with the modern world”, to cope with the social media.
In reality, old power structures still have power, they just have it in new spaces.
All human comments appreciated. All like clicks chucked in the Bin.