Social Media and Democracy

The growing influence of social media, what it is doing to democracy and how it can be used to better serve local government constituents was explored by Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore in a clinic Thursday.  

Social media platforms have long been touted as paths to the democratization of information and freedom of expression, dramatically increasing levels of civic access and political engagement.

The quality of that engagement has also been profoundly changed, and not always for the good, according to Moore.  Misinformation and hate fester in social media and threaten to drown out the genuine discussion of ideas, he said.

Moore referenced the many examples of elected officials being harassed and even leaving Facebook in response to persistently ugly online comments.  He suggested that the increase in social media attacks on elected officials is likely a factor in the high number of Mayors and Councillors in Metro who have declined to run for election this year. “We need to step up as community leaders, lead by example, and call out this abuse.”

The fast-paced and often unverified information feeds of Twitter and Facebook are influencing conventional print and broadcast media. Television networks now treat political news as they do sports coverage, using the same formats of debate panels, splashy graphics, and countdown clocks, pushing a paradigm of winners and losers in matters of civil society. 

But as Moore stated, politics is not like sports, which implies that there is a winner and a loser.  “One of the traits of local government elected officials is that they try to find solutions that benefit everyone.”

“Facebook’s number one priority and legal obligation is to make money for their shareholders, monetizing everything they can,” Moore reminded delegates.

Moore wondered at the what self-regulation or independent regulatory approach may be required to move social media towards fulfilling its promise of a paradise for free speech and anti-censorship.

He concluded by offering some tips for using social media platforms as an elected official or as a community.  Most importantly, he said “have a game plan for social media,” a strategy that outlines your intentions for utilizing the platform.

Meta Navigation