Impact of social media on elections

 After stepping into a new decade 2021, if we reflect back on what we have achieved in the last decade then undoubtedly it's the social media and how it is influencing us in everyday life. I will go over the societal influence in another post as in this post I want to talk about how Twitter and Facebook are effectively meddling with the elections in the US and around the globe. 

Last year, US has seen a historic and divisive election ever. According to the Forbes article, social media was an important platform in reaching out the masses pre-election and was a source for continuous engagement throughout the election phase. Starting from campaigning, debates, predicting the election outcome and ultimately choosing to kick out the incumbent president from Twitter platform all together!  We will take an in depth look at what kind of effect these online platforms could have on the voters and election process. 

On social media platforms like Twitter, where user can gain direct access to their political leaders by following them and responding to their tweets. Every person or party who is campaigning have their twitter handles displayed for people to follow them. It absolutely feels like they are connected to them even though they know they can never directly meet them in person. Psychological relationship like this can definitely help the political parties to gather vote bank by tabbing on their interests and suggestions. For most people, visuals carry even more powerful impact than words. With the amount of pictures and videos posted on these online mediums, there is no differentiation on to which one is genuine and which one is fake. There is no way to stop this misinformation. Sure, platforms have come up with their own algorithms to show a disclaimer that the claim is not verified, but still it's out there for everyone to digest! With evident media polarization everywhere in democratic countries, there are certain set of people specially youths are more inclined to use social media to get direct answers from the candidates. 

As per the PBS survey, biggest thread to keeping elections safe is to stop misleading information circling around the social media. The next bigger piece is to handle voter fraud. 

The most pressing question in this time is can media really alter any election outcome? Answer is no, but can it influence the voters? Hell yeah! These social media platforms are bypassing the mainstream media which was earlier acting like a gatekeeper between voters and political leaders. The way they are influencing the people and their voices is also a word of caution for everyone. Twitter banning the incumbent president's account over the riots is a last straw. 

As a citizen of any country it's a moment to ponder, are we allowing social media to dictate policies in our country? Sure government in US tried to testify the CEOs of these companies for not allowing external interference. But there is a high time government should regulate more stricter laws around them so that they don't influence the elections directly or target any government person/agency publicly. These kind of incidents make us ponder as to why some nations have still blocked Facebook and Twitter and will never allow them to operate without accepting their terms and conditions. 

Pic courtesy: google images.

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