Social networks play an increasingly important role in electoral politics around the world. Digitization enables a society to be more transparent, increasing public participation and the government’s ability to disseminate information in an accessible manner. The media plays a vital role in a democracy; informing the public about political issues and acting as a watchdog against abuses of power. One of the ways that social media has transformed politics is the absolute speed at which news, poll results and rumors are shared.
Digital technology gives the population more insight into government policies and function an insight that might, in turn, lead to more active political participation and support the development of human rights. Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram give politicians the opportunity to shape their public image and convey a sense of transparency to users.
During election campaign the media provides information and analysis about the political parties’ programmes, policies, candidates and performance. The use of social media in politics including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube has dramatically changed the way campaigns are run. Social media is now a serious factor in political campaigns and in the way people think about issues. Candidates and their supporters constantly post their views on Facebook and Twitter. Each party has its own pages, from which it broadcasts propaganda and requests for donations.
With every advance in technology comes impact on everyday life. Social media has the ability to raise awareness about the campaign and potentially gain support, but the main risk of higher digital media consumption is that it can be used with harmful intentions to spread propaganda and mobilize followers. While social media helps bring younger generations’ attention and awareness to politics, it often shows only the best or the worst of a candidate. The dull and informative news is rarely shared via social media; the full story is almost always left out. During a highly polarize election, people are motivated to share anything that supports their candidate or, more likely, attacks the opposing candidate. This can result in false stories widely circulating. Even if false stories are discredited and withdrawn, the damage is already done. By the time an authentication is published, millions of people may have already seen the story. Social media makes this distinction especially confusing.
The media focuses on the entertainment aspect of the campaign, changing the way our generation views politics. It may be bringing attention to the campaign, but for all the wrong reasons. The constant stream of memes, links and rumors about political leaders and candidates is a mixture of truth, lies, ridicule and speculation. Political campaigns are now influenced by every story, whether true or not, that gets spread around social media. It’s getting more and more difficult to separate actual news from fake news online. As a consequence social media influence human decision making as a result of content filtering mechanisms that can target specific information to certain people with potentially discriminatory effects. Hence it is crucial to not get all of our knowledge from the media. It is also up to us to decide how we view social media and how we allow social networking to either benefit or harm our decision making.