Social media and politics
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The World Wide Web is the definitive symbol of our times. While it does have a reputation for being an unreliable source of information or a place to waste time, social media are now being used in the more serious setting of politics.
Barack Obama’s victory in the 2008 election is credited to the Republican Party’s lack of popularity. However, the use of social media in his campaign was also a factor in his election. Twitter, YouTube and Flickr were all sites used in Obama’s campaign. Using them, the presidential candidate was able to reach younger voters and modified the way political campaigns are run.
Through social media we are changing the world we live in. Today, relationships can start and end online, business transactions are conducted online, and constitutions are formed online.
The government of Iceland decided to write a new constitution after its economic collapse in 2008.
The task was given to 25 individuals who hailed from different professions. These people decided to crowd-source the constitution and allow all of Iceland’s 320,000 citizens to be able to share their input on what should go into the constitution.
People of Iceland could see drafts of the constitution and comment on the website. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube pages were also set up to allow for discussion. This is quite a democratic approach that insures total transparency. Many people on other social media sites praised Iceland.
The Internet is a powerful tool in the hands of the common man. It is often used for trivial things like uploading narcissistic videos or commenting on videos featuring cats. It has also been used to stage rallies, riots and revolutions. It’s refreshing to see the Internet being used for good.
One needs only to read comments below a YouTube video to find out first hand that the Internet is not known for being the most civil platform of discussion. As an anonymous platform, many people abuse it and merely troll rather than discuss. Due to this fact, all of the Iceland constitutional forums had moderators.
Near the end of the 18th century, 55 delegates sat around a room and mapped out the new U.S. constitution. This constitution was put to a vote by the states and ratified June 21, 1788. The document was a huge leap for democracy.
Now, Iceland has taken another big step for democracy with the way it is forming its constitution. The transparency displayed by having the process entirely online will certainly reduce corruption.
The real issue is how involved the people of Iceland are with their government and whether or not social networking sites will impact political efficacy.
Facebook has reached the 750 million users mark, and it is clear the influence social media has on the world. It’s a powerful tool. Now that is being used in the political arena, it is up to us whether we use it for good or for evil.