Social media is helping people have a voice in politics around the world by enabling them to discuss issues, band together for causes, and hold leaders accountable. Social media was hailed as a medium for liberation as recently as 2011, when it was crucial to the Arab Spring in countries like Tunisia.
Since then, a lot has altered. The hazards of foreign interference, 'fake news,' and political divisiveness were highlighted by the 2016 US presidential election. Never before has it been more important to study how social media affects politics.
This prompts the crucial query: What impact does social media have on democracy?
Although I have a strong sense of optimism, I am also aware of the harm that the internet can do, even to a democracy that is operating effectively.
I'm committed to recognizing these dangers and making sure the positive far outweighs the bad for that reason.
This problem becomes more urgent with each passing year. Facebook has been successful at connecting friends and family, which is how it was initially intended to be used. But as record numbers of individuals utilize this medium to express their political fervor, it's being put to unexpected uses with consequences for society that weren't predicted.
2016 saw Facebook take much too long to realize how malicious users were misusing our platform. We are currently making a concerted effort to eliminate these hazards.
We want to start an honest dialogue about the challenging issues this work presents because we can't do this alone. In this blog, I'll talk about how we are attempting to address the social media's most significant negative consequences on democracy while simultaneously highlighting the ways it can potentially strengthen it.
We want Facebook to be a place where people can share their political opinions without fear of retaliation, but we also need to make sure that nobody is threatened or bullied because of their opinions.
Governments themselves occasionally engage in such harassment, which further complicates issues. In one of the nations we recently visited, a resident claimed that the police paid him a visit to check on his tax compliance after he released a video critical of the government. The likelihood that states will use their power to frighten their opponents increases as more nations pass laws that aim to outlaw internet expression. Speech could become stifled as a result of such.
Making a Voice
The fusion of social media and democracy is undoubtedly fraught with difficulties. However, there are a lot of positive aspects as well, which motivates me to go to work every day.
First, social media has a lot of ability to inform people. Two-thirds of US adults use social media to get at least some of their news, according to the Pew Research Center. Social media frequently increases the audience for news because a lot of people discover it by chance rather than actively seeking it out.
And maybe most significantly, people are actively debating the news rather than just reading it. The effects on civic participation are significant.
Then, how does social media impact democracy?
Social media amplifies human intent, both good and ill, if there is one fundamental truth about how technology affects democracy. Our ability to express oneself and act is optimum when this is possible. In the worst case scenario, it enables the dissemination of false information and the degradation of democracy.
Although I would like to be able to promise that the advantages will eventually outweigh the disadvantages, I am not able to. We therefore have a moral obligation to comprehend how these technologies are being employed and what can be done to make online communities like Facebook as representative, civil, and trustworthy as is practical.
We don't pretend to have all the answers because this is a new field. But I can assure you that my staff and a large number of others here are committed to this effort. As we work together to uncover the solutions, we'll share what we discover with you.
I have faith that social media can be used to effectively interact with the public square because it can be developed with the same inventiveness that made it a fantastic method to communicate with friends.
I think a more interconnected world can ultimately be a more democratic one for this reason.