How does politics affect technology?

democracy How does social media affect democracy?

However, this increases the number of incorrect information. Over half of users (55 percent) are concerned about whether they can tell the difference between fake information and true information. This value comes from a survey of 75,000 participants from 38 countries, carried out by the Reuter Institute. They developed the "Digital News Report 2019", which deals with the dissemination of information via the Internet.

Social media as a source of political information

These days search engines and algorithms function as new gatekeepers. Algorithms select content based on individual preferences and user behavior of individual users and user groups and present them to the respective audience. Thus, the offer is adapted to the individual user.

Researchers at TU Dresden compiled a literature review on the effects of these algorithms selected messages in our society. The "Digital News Report 2017" shows that young people in particular are shifting their use of news and political discussions to social networks. Since Google, Facebook and Twitter base their information selection on algorithms, they can control the supply and use of political information. In Germany, 29 percent of those surveyed used social media as a news source. In Portugal and Spain, this value was significantly higher at 62 and 58 percent, respectively, according to the results of the "Digital News Report 2017". Facebook is considered to be the most important news source in the field of social media.

What consequences can the selection of messages by algorithms have?

The research team led by communication scientist Lutz M. Hagen identified some negative consequences that can be associated with the selection of information by algorithms in a political context.

Filter bubbles could be a hazard. Since the selection of the information presented is based on individual user behavior and preferences, one is not confronted with controversial perspectives. You find yourself in the so-called filter bubble, in which your own views are rarely contradicted. This can lead to polarization, because your own attitude is always strengthened. In terms of politics, however, this works particularly well in a two-party system like the USA, in which there is a clear political opposing side. An already existing polarization could therefore be intensified by the mechanisms of social media.

In a study on the subject of "polarization through social media", the research team from Dresden was able to prove that the use of social networks can promote polarization in relation to a political issue. However, only for those with little formal education. As a result, they emphasize the importance of media education in order to counteract a social division in the digital age. However, further research on this topic is urgently needed.

More participants in the public discourse?

An example of a private offer that has become an important player in political reporting is the “Netzpolitik” blog. Another example is the video by YouTuber Rezo, in which, as a private person, he expressed severe criticism of political parties and thus received over 15 million views.

During a study, the Swedish researcher Nils Gustafsson found that politically active people also use the Facebook platform more often for political communication. People who are less interested in politics were not encouraged to participate by Facebook.

On Facebook, Twitter and even on Instagram you can find examples of how young people are interested in politics and thus get involved in the discussion. We have selected three here, which we link as examples.