How powerful are social media?

A report published by the US Senate confirms the findings of the US intelligence agencies that Russian agents used social media to sway the US presidential election campaign in Donald Trump's favour. Facebook and co. also played a key role in mobilising the yellow vest protests in France.

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Corriere della Sera (IT) /

He who shouts loudest wins

Social networks can pose a real threat to representative democracy, political scientist Giovanni Belardelli points out in Corriere della Sera:

“They can create a democracy that strives to reflect popular opinions, without filters and without mediation. A democracy in which leadership - considered as the ability to interpret and when need be to ignore collective feelings - seems to be replaced by followship: that is by the tendency to passively follow the opinion of the majority. And the opinion of a questionable majority at that, which is perhaps only formed by those who shout the loudest and who have the most time to shout.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Social networks will decide elections

Polish Politicians should take a course on social media before the parliamentary elections next year, Rzeczpospolita advises:

“In 2019 it will no longer be enough for parties and politicians simply to influence the media. They must become media themselves, creating their own content, setting trends on social media and reacting to attacks from rivals with counter-attacks. And all that on a big scale, regularly, around the clock, taking pleasure in reacting fast and keeping their eyes peeled for topics that grip society. ... In 2019 this may well decide who comes to power in Poland.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

An intermediary for the Good and Bad

Facebook's vital role in generating social movements should definitely be subject to nuanced critical analysis, the taz writes:

“The Occupy Wall Street and Gezi Park protests, the Euromaidan demonstrations and those for the sea bridge and in Ferguson, the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar, Trump and Duterte's election campaigns - in all these and many other events Facebook played a role. As an intermediary. As a platform where individuals could network with each other. As a place where people could be mobilised. And manipulated. Badgered. And informed. For the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Naturally Facebook's software systems are not neutral. ... But it's also clear that criticising Facebook only when it makes a movement you consider undesirable is oversimplifying the problem.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Social networks strengthen the unorganised

The social networks are both a blessing and a curse for President Macron, German-American political scientist Yascha Mounk comments in Le Figaro:

“When Emmanuel Macron was just a minister thinking about creating an improbable political movement, digital tools helped him to put himself on a par with the traditional parties. They allowed him to identify supporters, organise meetings and campaign successfully. Now that he's president with all the associated attributes of power, the social networks are naturally strengthening the position of his opponents: in the same way that he was able to lead a presidential campaign without a traditional organisation, they can organise huge demonstrations without the help of traditional organisations like the unions.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Flood of information mobilises masses

While social networks can play a big role in the emergence of protest movements whether they will be enduring is questionable, philosopher Francesca Sforza writes in La Stampa:

“The presence of digitalisation in our lives is one cause of this new actionism. Because in a daily environment that's so influenced by the time we spend using our smartphones, our perception of reality is necessarily filtered by our digital experience. ... Taken together, the vast amount of messages and stimuli that reach each individual is sufficient to mobilise masses. Nevertheless there is a danger that while such movements can have a huge impact they will remain superficial, without reaching the depths of civil society.”