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On balance, social media has been good for democracy

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/3/2018 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 783 times Debate No: 113454
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R1 is for acceptance only

Traditional debate only (no K's and such)

good luck


I accept your challenge. I wish you good luck!
Debate Round No. 1


To begin, I’d like to clarify what democracy is. Encyclopedia Britannica defines democracy as:“rule by the people”. With this definition, rather than debating what “good for democracy” means, we can say that anything that gives people more power and influence over their government is good for democracy, and anything that takes away from that power and influence is bad for democracy. With that said, I offer-

Contention 1: Social media empowered The Tunisian Revolution

The Tunisian Revolution of 2011 was an intensive campaign of civil resistance that contested a brutally oppressive authoritarian government, with president Ben Ali silencing political opposition through force, even going so far as to imprison and execute protesters. Thankfully, the Tunisian people were able to utilize social media to help in establishing a representative democracy. On May 25th, 2011, digital strategy consultant and the founder and editor of Colin Delany wrote in the Huffington Post about a presentation at NPR’s headquarters by Rim Nour, a young Tunisian protester, stating: “First, protests broke out in the interior of the country after a young man burned himself alive to protest his treatment at the hands of the authorities. A brutal police crackdown resulted, providing activists with shocking imagery to spread online and generate unrest. Second, as protests spread to the more affluent parts of the country, people poured into the streets of cities like Sfax and Tunis and began to organize themselves with cell phones and Facebook. Finally, as President Ben Ali fled and the country risked disorder and random violence, people across the country used social media to dispel misinformation and organize themselves to counter security forces, regime-supporters and looters alike”. Websites such as Facebook and Twitter were vital to ensuring that the Tunisian revolution didn't fizzle out. Using these tools, the Tunisian people established democratic elections and a free press, finally breaking free from government oppression. Next, consider-

Contention 2: Social media strengthened democratic participation

Subpoint A: Social media facilitated organizing protests

Protests have been proven to be an effective tool for drawing the attention of politicians towards issues that citizens are passionate about.Social media makes the process of organization more simple and appealing. On March 28th, 2016, The Economist released an article stating that:“Political scientists have long pointed out that social media makes it easier for interests to organize: they give voice and power to people who have neither. For instance, they helped get Black Lives Matter, a movement fighting violence against African-Americans, off the ground, according to a recent study led by Deen Freelon of the American University in Washington, DC”. Furthermore, on December 31st, 2015, associate-editor Clare Foran published an article in The Atlantic stating that:"As Black Lives Matter becomes increasingly intertwined with mainstream politics, activists have found people in high places ready and willing to listen to their demands", and goes on to state: "In May, Obama called for an end to transfers of certain kinds of military-style equipment from the federal government to police departments. In December, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced a new effort to improve its tracking of fatal police shootings. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake fired their police chiefs amid protests over police brutality". Social media has transformed the way that people organize protests and get issues on the public agenda and create policy change, clearly increasing the power and influence of citizens.

Subpoint B: On balance, social media caused more political involvement

As mentioned earlier, citizens have important roles to fill within a democracy. On March 9th, 2015, the “Information, Communication & Society” journal published a meta-analysis overviewing 36 studies that measure the impact social media has on political activism, stating:“Overall, the metadata demonstrate a positive relationship between social media use and participation. More than 80% of coefficients are positive”. They went on to examine specifics, stating that:The few studies that isolate protest-type activities (marches, demonstrations, petitions, boycotts) suggest that social media plays a positive role in citizens’ participation”. Note that participation is key to influencing one’s government and that this evidence trumps any case-studies or journalist opinions the negative may present because it is a meta-analysis, encompassing 36 studies and drawing a trend conclusion. My final argument is-

Contention 3: Social media made representatives more accountable

Representative democracy is built upon the idea that the behavior of elected officials should be responsive to the preferences of their constituencies. While some people believe that representatives don't take public opinion into account when voting, a meta-analysis overviewing 22 sources regarding the responsiveness of representatives to public opinion published by Duke University on May 1st, 2015, stated:“The biggest conclusion we can draw from this study is that, while neither the Senate or the House appear to vote based on strict 50% public support threshold, it does seem that the House responds to changes in public support, while the Senate does not”. Social media makes public opinion evident. In 2015, the Congressional Management Foundation released a report detailing the results from surveying House and Senate Communications Directors about their usage of social media, stating:“Both communications and legislative staffers indicated their bosses have become more open to social media in recent years. Most of the respondents (84%) said Members of Congress have become more inclined to use social media while only 1% said their bosses had become less inclined to use it”, then later states: “More than three-quarters (76%) of the respondents "agree" or "strongly agree" with the statement "social media enabled us to have more meaningful interactions with constituents," and nearly as many (70%) agreed that "social media has made Members/Senators more accountable to constituents". An additional study published by the Congressional Management Foundation in 2011 regarding the amount of feedback representatives receive from their constituents showed that the rate at which people contacted their representatives surged as social media became popular, stating:“During the past decade, congressional offices have reported significant increases in constituent communications volume” and goes on to state:“Some congressional offices have experienced a 1,000% increase in communications volume in the past decade”.Social media surged in popularity as a tool for constituents to voice their opinion to representatives. This ensures that more decisions are being made by the consent of the governed, and breaks through barriers between representatives and citizens.

In closure, social media has given millions the tools and inspiration to become democratically involved. For these reasons, I affirm.

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Debate Round No. 2
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Debate Round No. 3
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Debate Round No. 4
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Debate Round No. 5
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