Social Media, Open Platforms, and Democracy: Transparency Enabler, Slayer of Democracy, Both?

AbstractGovernment agencies have increased their use of social media as a means to connect to and engage with their citizenry, disseminate and promote policies, to inform the public, and in general promote more transparency in government. Recently, however, social media platforms are being used by some inside government to criticize those who do not agree with their policies; circumvent expected administrative, legislative, and judicial processes; and create a policy making process that resides outside constitutional and deliberative channels. Further, as discovered during the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, foreign governments have used social media platforms to interfere with sovereign nation elections through concerted efforts to falsify facts, create false stories (“fake news”), and sow discord among electorates. In the U.S. context, social media wields significant influence on voters, democratic institutions, and the deliberative democratic process. Using the U.S. context, this article presents a preliminary exploration of the emerging perils that social media represents to democracies, from administrative (management and operations of government) and democratic (governance) perspectives.


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