Social media and digital democracy

Social media and digital democracy

Social media and digital democracy – Today Current Affairs

Arguably, the digital format of democracy does suggest a qualitative shift in the forms of protest and dissonance that were hitherto mediated by the text and content written on a physical object such as paper or wood or leaves. Needless to mention that the written texts, used particularly to encourage and perpetuate social dominance and the oppression of the suppressed section both in the West and in India, were consigned by the victims of such texts to fire. The “rebellious” texts written by the victims of social oppression and cultural domination were, conversely, destroyed by the counter-reformists in the West and counter-revolutionaries in India. Paper as a physical object, thus, did provide the background condition for the protagonist of social change to protest against or drive home the point that a particular text was considered as an assault on human freedom.

Destroying written documents, banishing and branding “rebellious” texts that were written both as resistance and transcendence or, conversely, the texts that preached domination—both these forms of protests are no longer required or feasible in the digital mode of expression that is arguably intellectually or discursively more democratic. It is democratic as it makes the resources of expression such as blogs easily available to people across the table. However, such access does require intellectual preparation or discursive homework for writing more sensible content for it to be processed through different digital platforms. Since the differentially textualised content gets rendered in digital forms such as blogs or on social media like Facebook or WhatsApp, the very process of digitisation makes the content fire-free. It is almost impossible to consign them to real fire. The Hindu Analysis

Ideally, various digital platforms that seek to facilitate the process of debate and dialogue would not only encourage but also require its participants to take recourse to the ideas and arguments as an intellectual means for making intelligent and hence persuasive arguments. It would force these participants to, at least, read from the screen relevant content that would make their interventions as protest more intellectually substantive rather than emotionally sizzling. Normative claims and counterclaims that are made using digital platform, thus, do not suffer from arbitrariness.

Digital democracy propels the act of protest to move from one level, which accommodates the “fugitive” forms of dissonance such as torching the documents with hands or consigning it to fire, to another level where it is not the hand but the mind that assigns normative elevation to the very idea of protest. Viewed from this angle, one could then argue that the baseline of accessing digital democracy is primarily intellectual, which by implication has the potential to keep from the act of torching or outrageous shredding that in some cases is often done without reading and thinking. Today Current Affairs

Ironically, the digital also becomes the medium through which the content of truth, both historical and empirical, gets trampled down in the swarm of fake news or visual violence that ultimately anticipates the real violence. The sacred thoughts and ideas are likely to be consumed by the visual fire of hate speech circulated day in and day out. The digital is then put into misuse where the socially regressive forces tend to regulate the linear or the top-down flow of command to circulate highly prejudiced messages. It is an irony in the life of deliberative democracy that the digital is not able to sustain the deliberative thrust of democracy. This regulation of the linear or the top-down flow of command in the circulation of prejudiced messages militates against the very basic principle of the digital, which accords autonomy at every level of its operation and plurality of opinion that follows the non-linear mode. This is why digital is operationally democratic.

Positive Impact of Social Media on Democracy : The Hindu Analysis

  • Digital Democracy: Democratic values can evolve when people have freedom of expression. In this way, social media enables the concept of digital democracy through these platforms of freedom.

  • Setting Accountability: Social media acts as an instrument that can question the seemingly invincible governments, make them accountable and bring sustained change driven by people beyond one vote in years. The Hindu Analysis

  • Giving Voice: Social media has enormous power to keep people informed. This can be seen, when social media played a critical role in the Arab Spring in places like Tunisia, it was heralded as a technology for liberation.

  • Civic Engagement: Social media’s implications for civic engagement are profound, as many people tend to discuss & debate news over these platforms.

    • It has long been observed that when people discuss the news, they’re more likely to be involved in their community, whether by volunteering or reaching out to elected officials.

Negative Impact of Social Media on Democracy : The Hindu Analysis

  • Political Polarization: One of the most common criticisms of social media is that it creates echo chambers where people only see viewpoints they agree with — further driving us apart.

    • As unprecedented numbers of people channel their political energy through this medium, it’s being used in unforeseen ways with societal repercussions that were never anticipated. The Hindu Analysis

  • Propaganda Setting: According to Google Transparency Report, political parties mostly in the last two years have spent around $800 million (Rs 5,900 crore) on election ads.

    • Micro-targeting can enable dishonest campaigns to spread toxic discourse without much consequence.

  • Foreign Interference: Around the US 2016 election, Russian entities set up and promoted fake Pages on Facebook to influence public sentiment — essentially using social media as an information weapon. The Hindu Analysis

    • In this way, social media enables nation-states to use these platforms to wage a cyberwar intended to divide society.

  • Fake News: Social media gives people more voice and can sometimes be used, by anyone, to spread hoaxes and misinformation.

  • Unequal Participation: Social media also distorts policymakers’ perception of public opinion. This is because it is believed that social media platforms tend to represent every walk of life, but not everyone is using their voice equally.

In a digitized space, when the opponent does not understand the language of argument, they then adopt disinformation, fake news, and morphed images. This causes a serious threat to digital democracy. Democratizing digital as a means of defending the constitutional values and protecting the principles of collective harmony has to be made available to everyone. Through the digital, it is then possible to keep a steady vigil to ­arrest the flow or spread of disinformation. Digital vigilance is not only active even in its passive version inasmuch as it aims at ensuring protection from the regressive onslaught on constitutional values and public ethics but also in its active mode offers the possibility to expand the space of such vigilance against the growing threat of fake news and hate speech.

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plutus ias daily current affairs 14 May 2022

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