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Social media and democracy

Is social media a tool or a threat to democracy?

Social media plays a pivotal role in shaping public opinion and fostering democracy in the world, particularly that it provides a platform for the voiceless to express their voice vis a vis various issues and allows masses to share information and galvanise support around certain issues and causes. Social media platforms serve as tools for the organization of social movements as we have clearly seen in the Arab Spring which was incubated in Tunisia in 2011.

Even though the emergence of social media has been celebrated across the globe, serious concerns are being raised about its negative impact. The proliferation of social media has presented a formidable challenge with regard to information authentication, giving rise to fake news. Accusations were rife that fake news has, for instance, influenced the opinion of some voters in the last US elections.

Does social media pose a risk to democracy?

Skeptics opine that social media does not offer an equal platform for all, arguing that posts by social media elites are generally favored by most users. They also point out that when political discussions take place, they are not always rational in the sense that political information, particularly expressed by non-specialists in social media generally lacks strong arguments and coherency and are highly opinionated. Nonetheless, experts and specialists are mostly diligent in sharing authoritative and verifiable information.  Another point of contention is that the users have a tendency of dramatizing and humorizing issues. Another argument entails that the opinions expressed in the social media may not necessarily reflect the public opinion, because the opinion could be misleading or manipulative.

It has also been argued by critics that expressing views and discussing them with others are common ways of participating in politics. Even though these features are existent in social media, they fall below standards.

The lack of regulation and control of social media have also made some pundits perceive it as a threat to societies. In other words, social media is largely an unregulated terrain at the fingertips of all and sydney, hence it’s beyond the reach of conventional control mechanisms. Though difficult, This challenge  has prompted some countries to restrict use and access of social media by introducing bills aimed at controlling the free flow of information as was evident in several Arab countries at the height of the Arab Spring revolution. Nevertheless, some governments have been reluctant to introduce or enforce restrictions considering the serious economic ramifications of undermining the much cherished freedom of expression.

Some pundits have raised concerns over the problem of identifying and verifying some of the sources and contents either shared or posted on social media accounts and have considered this as a great threat to democracy.

Through this analysis, it’s evident that the merits of the social media far outweigh the demerits, despite some challenges that social media continue to pose, and the disappointments that accompany the emergence of any new innovation.

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