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Social Media Is Good for Democracy

The BriefGet Up To Speed

By connecting people across the world for free, platforms like Twitter and Facebook set the stage for a promising digital revolution, providing tools that helped foster global friendships, break down long-standing barriers that kept people and ideas from being heard, and served as the ultimate democratizing force for information. Now, lawmakers in the U.S. and beyond are reeling with questions of how to prevent the spread of digital political propaganda and protect citizens’ personal privacy online. Critics argue that rather than uniting and informing, social media deepens social and political divisions and erodes trust in the democratic process. Will the power of social media yet be harnessed and used as an unprecedented force for good in the world? Or do systemic platform flaws pose an irreversible threat to the world’s democratic institutions?  


“Facebook, with more than 1.8 billion monthly active users, remains the world’s most popular social network, by far. If the social media giant were a country, it would be much bigger than China.”

Monday, March 20, 2017
Rosamond Hutt

“In addition to the concerns about privacy and social media platforms uncovered in our surveys, related research shows that just 5% of social media users trust the information that comes to them via the platforms ‘a lot.’”

Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Lee Rainie

“First, social media is a tool for giving voice to those excluded from access to the mainstream media. Second, despite the fact that social-media democratizes access to information, those using it can simultaneously censor and manipulate information to try to silence others’ voices.”

Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Joshua Tucker, Yannis Theocharis, Margaret E. Roberts and Pablo Barberá

“Social media brings both positives and negatives to a democracy, to the accessibility of information to the spread of misinformation — but the number of changes from advertising revisions to algorithms designed to detect fake news suggests the issue isn’t one that the networks are ignoring.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Hillary Grigonis

“A majority of U.S. adults – 62% – get news on social media, and 18% do so often, according to a new survey by Pew Research Center.”


Thursday, May 26, 2016
Jeffrey Gottfried & Elisa Shearer
For the Motion

“Because social media is participatory, it is a tool people use to create and share information with friends and family, and potentially the wider world.”

Wednesday, May 30, 2018
Ethan Zuckerman

“For people to govern themselves, they need to have information. They also need to be able to convey it to others. Social media platforms make that tons easier.”

Monday, January 22, 2018
Cass R. Sunstein

“Everyone with a smartphone is effectively their own media company, a reporter and broadcaster all in one, thanks to Twitter and Facebook and their live-streaming tools. In other words, media has been almost completely democratized, for better or worse.”

Thursday, June 23, 2016
Mathew Ingram

“Social media is one of the most powerful forms of activism, and (dare I say) a catalyst for change.”

Thursday, November 13, 2014
Sabina Khan-Ibarra

“If any media platform is to blame, it is not the web. It is more likely television, which is a more important source of political information.”

Link to referenced study:

Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Levi Boxell, Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse M. Shapiro

“Blaming social media is a classic case of shooting the messenger. It wrongly assumes partisan polarization didn’t exist before Facebook and that mechanisms to communicate don’t always offer both promise and peril for seeking truth and solving problems.”

Monday, November 27, 2017
Rob Richie

“Social network sites are also an important space for political discussions and movements such as #MeToo or #MarchForOurLives.”

Thursday, April 12, 2018
Jakob Ohme
Against the Motion

“Social media speaks directly to the most reactive, least reflective parts of our minds, demanding we pay attention even when our calmer selves might tell us not to. It is no surprise that this form of media is especially effective at promoting hate, white supremacy, and public humiliation.”

Friday, January 5, 2018
David Golumbia

“Now tech companies are under fire for creating problems instead of solving them.”

Thursday, October 12, 2017
David Streitfeld

“Trolling and harassment have made politicians extremely cautious about engaging with citizens on these [social media] platforms.”

Friday, November 4, 2016
Yannis Theocharis, Pablo Barberá, Zoltán Fazekas and Sebastian Popa

“The more people use their addictive-by-design social media, the more attention social-media companies can sell to advertisers—and the more data about the users’ behaviour they can collect for themselves.”

Saturday, November 4, 2017

“Facebook doesn’t just connect democracy-­loving Egyptian dissidents and fans of the videogame Civilization; it brings together white supremacists, who can now assemble far more effectively.”

Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Zeynep Tufecki

“The economic incentives that push Facebook to collect as much user data as possible also explain why we should not rely on Facebook to stem the tide of fake news.”

Friday, June 16, 2017
Brett Frischmann and Mark Verstraete
Sunday, October 1, 2017
Anamitra Deb, Stacy Donohue, and Tom Glaisyer
Facebook, Cambridge Analytica & Democracy

“The announcement is the latest in a string of changes the social network has made to contain the fallout from the data privacy scandal involving Cambridge Analytica.”

Monday, April 9, 2018
Steven Overly

“The data analytics firm that worked with Donald Trump’s election team and the winning Brexit campaign harvested millions of Facebook profiles of US voters, in one of the tech giant’s biggest ever data breaches, and used them to build a powerful software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box.”

Saturday, March 17, 2018
Carole Cadwalladr and Emma Graham-Harisson

“Zuckerberg’s statement fell short in a very specific way: He’s treating the Cambridge Analytica breach as a bad-actor problem when it’s actually a known bug.”

Friday, March 23, 2018
Ethan Zuckerman

Facebook confronts the topic of social media and democracy.

Monday, January 22, 2018
Katie Harbath
Social Media as a Force for Change

“It is almost impossible to think of a major political protest or upheaval occurring without social media being part of both the incident and the ensuing narrative.”

Thursday, January 8, 2015
By Joshua A. Tucker, Megan Metzger, Duncan Penfold-Brown, Richard Bonneau, John Jost and Jonathan Nagler

“Iran and other uprisings shows the promise and peril of social media as a protest tool.”

Wednesday, January 3, 2018
James Warren

“The Arab Spring carried the promise that social media and the Internet were going to unleash a new wave of positive social change. But the past five years have shown that liberty isn't the only end toward which these tools can be turned.”

Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Jessi Hempel

Can the Arab Uprisings really be described as a “social media revolution?”

Monday, January 25, 2016
Maeve Shearlaw
Social Media as a Weapon

“China is exploring how artificial intelligence (AI) and big data can be used to monitor everything from social media to credit-card spending, and it plans to assign all citizens a social reliability rating to weed out potential troublemakers.”

Friday, February 9, 2018
Kent Harrington

“Violence against the Rohingya has been fueled, in part, by misinformation and anti-Rohingya propaganda spread on Facebook, which is used as a primary news source by many people in the country.”

Sunday, October 29, 2017

“Social media has empowered ISIS recruiting, helping the group draw at least 30,000 foreign fighters, from some 100 countries, to the battlefields of Syria and Iraq.”

Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Emerson T. Brooking and P.W. Singer

“The agency had become known for employing hundreds of Russians to post pro-Kremlin propaganda online under fake identities, including on Twitter, in order to create the illusion of a massive army of supporters; it has often been called a ‘troll farm.’”

Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Adiran Chen

“Social media, cybersecurity experts say, serve a twofold purpose for hackers. The sites can be used as tools for gleaning personal information on individuals the group wants to target, and as platforms for posting malicious software.”

Monday, May 29, 2017
Thomas Grove