The development of information technologies in modern society has reached those conditions under which it is time to talk about new forms of democracy. Electronic democracy is a qualitatively different technology for the expression of the will of the people. And, most importantly, more frequent and accurate measurements of the mood of the general population, which would not entail significant financial costs. To this should be added such an undoubted advantage of Internet democracy as responsiveness and the speed of revealing public opinion.
According to the criterion of free access to social networks, many researchers now assess the degree of democratization of society. This approach is not without foundation. If only because the citizens of countries that are known to be “undemocratic” are deprived of the opportunity to use the Internet and, accordingly, social networks. This ban, in particular, was established by the DPRK government. A typical example.
There is no doubt that social networks expand the communication capabilities of individuals. They allow you to form a circle of communication outside the environment, given biographically – acquaintances that have appeared in the course of training, professional activity, due to the neighborhood, etc. Social media essentially breaks down these kinds of boundaries. The circle of communication is formed according to the criterion of common interests, the attractiveness of the interlocutor, the relevance of a topic, etc. But in the aspect of government interests, something else is more important: control over social networks is ineffective. Networks provide, above all, the free exchange of information. However, the real usernames are not always known. Identifying them is very costly, but the effect is rarely achievable.
Communication on social media provides an individual with the ability to resist official propaganda. Moreover, to conduct polemics with her within the network community. In addition, social networks can and are becoming tools for organizing communities that are practically not controlled by the government. And this already implies the danger of resonance, which creates conditions for a coup. Traditional “democratic” regimes, regardless of the government’s opinion, cannot restrict access to social networks. After all, this is an encroachment on the fundamental principle of the organization of society – the notorious democracy. Governments that have already been recognized as “undemocratic” do not need to worry about such consequences. In such states, there is a prohibitive principle: everything that is not officially allowed is prohibited. The situation is somewhat different in countries whose governments claim to be “democratic”. Bans are recognized as inappropriate but attempts at the level of legislation to limit or control the activities of social networks are characteristic.
The development of the Internet makes it possible to reduce the costs of transmitting information through social networks and potentially makes them more effective than traditional methods of campaigning: political advertising on the air of television and radio channels, publication in print media, posting posters on the street. Social movements are becoming an important component of the political process (Della Porta, Diani, 1999). One of the factors in the formation of these social movements are social networks, which are beginning to play an increasing role in the modern political process.
The first large-scale attempt to use the power of social networks in a political campaign was made in the United States in the framework of “primaries” (selection of a candidate from a party) before the 2004 elections. Deanspace website played an important role in the company of Democratic candidate Howard Dean. The Deanspaece website was created by volunteers to energize the social networks of Dean’s supporters, and the site’s core toolkit was aimed at self-organizing and networking small support groups. Despite the fact that the site quickly became popular, it created groups for each state, for a number of cities and various thematic groups (scientists for Dean, women for Dean, etc.), he could not turn the tide. As a result, Howard Dean did not win the Primary in any of the states. Researchers justify the low voting results by the poor connection between the team of volunteers who worked on the creation and development of the site, and Dean’s campaign headquarters, as well as the low level of Internet penetration in rural areas (Lebkowsky J., Ratcliffe, 2005, p. 307).
Four years later, during the 2008 primaries, all these mistakes were taken into account by the campaign headquarters of the candidate for the Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama. Social media played a significant role in financing Obama’s election campaign because the main large donors to the Democratic Party supported Hillary Clinton (Plouffe, 2009). Of the $32 million raised in January 2008, when Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters set a record for the volume of campaign donations collected in one month, 28 million were received via the Internet, with 90% of these donations being less than $ 100 (Obama Raises $5.8 Million online After Super Tuesday). Social media also helped to activate supporters who usually did not participate in elections, did not follow political news in the conventional media, and were not members of political parties (Plouffe, 2009, p. 255). Bark Obama’s campaign demonstrates the effectiveness of using social media to disseminate political information. The development of the Internet is giving horizontal social networks the tools to be more effective than ever before. This will inevitably lead to a change in traditional forms of political participation, such as political parties, and to the further development of direct citizen participation in the political process.
Bloomberg.com: Obama Raises $5.8 Million online After Super Tuesday
Della Porta D., Diani M. Social Movements: An Introduction. — Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1999.
Lebkowsky J., Ratcliffe M. Extreme Democracy. — Lulu.com, 2005.
Plouffe D. The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama’s Historic Victory. — Viking Adult, 2009