Resolved: In the United States, social media is beneficial for democratic values (Bibliography and evidence)

Video Debates

Social Media Can Strengthen Democracy


Social Media and Democracy (2020). This is a book that contains arguments on both sides of the debate but it is largely Con.

What effect does social media on democracy? (2018). This article from the Project Manager for Civic Engagement at Facebook identifies the threats to a strong public sphere on Facebook and identifies some of the efforts Facebook is trying to take to address the threats.

The power of social media and the implications for democracy (2020). The article discusses the role social media played in the election of Trump, arguing it was potentially responsible for his election

Digital Democracy, Social Media, and Democracy (2020) Book. Digital Democracy, Social Media and Disinformation discusses some of the political, regulatory and technological issues which arise from the increased power of internet intermediaries (such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) and the impact of the spread of digital disinformation, especially in the midst of a health pandemic.

Social Media can both weaken and strengthen democracy (2020).

The New York Timespublished a piece titled “The storming of Capitol Hill was organized on social media.” This of course follows in tradition of many who have raised concerns about how social media can undermine democracy. Yet not too long ago, after the Arab Spring, social media was being hailed as a “liberation technology” that would help spread democracy. How can this be?

In a 2017 article in the Journal of Democracy, we answer this question with two observations. First, social media is a tool for giving voice to those excluded from access to the mainstream media. Second, despite the fact that social media democratizes access to information, those using it can simultaneously censor and manipulate information to try to silence others’ voices. Some of these forms of censorship — such as hindering access to information or threatening would-be opposition figures — are centuries old. Others — such as employing bots and trolls to change the online conversation — are particular to the digital age. Taken together, these two factors — using online tools to expand opportunities to speak up and to expand opportunities to silence — can illuminate the complex relationship between social media and democracy. We conclude that social media itself is neither inherently democratic nor nondemocratic, but yet another arena in which political actors contest for power.

Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media 2020 (book), As the Internet grows more sophisticated, it is creating new threats to democracy. Social media companies such as Facebook can sort us ever more efficiently into groups of the like-minded, creating echo chambers that amplify our views. It’s no accident that on some occasions, people of different political views cannot even understand one another. It’s also no surprise that terrorist groups have been able to exploit social media to deadly effect. Welcome to the age of #Republic. In this revealing book, New York Times bestselling author Cass Sunstein shows how today’s Internet is driving political fragmentation, polarization, and even extremism–and what can be done about it. He proposes practical and legal changes to make the Internet friendlier to democratic deliberation, showing that #Republic need not be an ironic term. Rather, it can be a rallying cry for the kind of democracy that citizens of diverse societies need most.


Cass R. Sunstein: Is Social Media Good or Bad for Democracy? (2018) On balance, the question of whether social media platforms are good for democracy is easy. On balance, they are not merely good; they are terrific. For people to govern themselves, they need to have information. They also need to be able to convey it to others. Social media platforms make that tons easier.

Ariadne Vromen: Is Social Media Good or Bad for Democracy? (2018) Inherently, however, I believe social media is a net “good” for civic engagement. Whether that remains so rests in part with Facebook, Twitter and all the companies that operate these platforms, and their willingness to play a more active and transparent role in working with civil society organizations to protect the networks they created.

Six or Seven Things Social Media Can Do For Democracy (2017). The title is self-explanatory


Is Social Media a Threat to Democracy? (2017). This article is a brief summary of a report that argues social media undermines democracy in six ways.

The influence of social media on democracy (2020). This article argues that social media promotes polarization and disinformation.

Evidence Mounts Of Social Media’s Negative Impacts For Democracy (2019). This week we learned more about the negative impacts that social media are having on democracy and internet freedom worldwide. On Monday, Freedom House published its “Freedom on the Net 2019” report, which warned of a worsening “crisis of social media. The report warns that social media “are now tilting dangerously toward illiberalism” as more governments and “unscrupulous partisan operatives” use social media for repressive purposes. These include not only malign propaganda campaigns at home and abroad, but also growing government use of social media for mass surveillance. “As a result of these trends,” Freedom House reports, “global internet freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2019.” These findings are based on an assessment of the state of internet freedom in 65 countries. The results are not encouraging. Of the 65 countries assessed, 33 saw a decline in internet freedom, with a record 47 featuring “arrests of users for political, social, or religious speech.”

Social Media helping to Undermine Democracy (2020)

Online Disinformation and Political Discourse: Applying a Human Rights Framework (2019). . Also this week, a report from Chatham House warned that “online political campaigning techniques are distorting our democratic political processes.” Techniques include use of social media to spread disinformation, use of social media data for surveillance and micro-targeting, use of bots or semi-automated accounts, and use of fake personas. “Such techniques,” the report says, “have outpaced regulatory initiatives” thus far.

How Social Media’s Use of Personal Data Affects Democracy (2020). In the constant churn of national and international news, it’s easy for important items to get overlooked — even when the story is one that helps explain how we find the very information we’re seeing. Almost lost in the news cycle Sept. 23 was a report detailing the extraordinary extent to which Facebook is amplifying false and misleading content relating to the 2020 U.S. presidential election. This time, the disinformation isn’t coming from abroad: U.S.-based super PACs — the organizations responsible for so much political advertising content — are the ones that were flooding Facebook users’ social media feeds with false and misleading political ads. This latest news further underscores the findings of academic and think-tank researchers, government agencies, bipartisan investigations, and even Facebook’s own internal reviews and oversight board about the toxic effects of social media on politics. 

The ‘Silicon Six’ spread propaganda. It’s time to regulate social media sites. (2019). Demagogues appeal to our worst instincts. Conspiracy theories once confined to the fringe are going mainstream, fueled in part by President Trump, who has spread such paranoid lies more than 1,700 times to his 67 million Twitter followers. It’s as if the Age of Reason — the era of evidential argument — is ending, and now knowledge is delegitimized and scientific consensus is dismissed. Democracy, which depends on shared truths, is in retreat, and autocracy, which thrives on shared lies, is on the march. Hate crimes are surging, as are murderous attacks on religious and ethnic minorities.

Social Media Effects: Hijacking Democracy and Civility in Civic Engagement (2020). Perceived as an equalizing force for disenfranchised individuals without a voice, the importance of social networks as agents of change cannot be ignored. However, in some societies, social networks have evolved into a platform for fake news and propaganda, empowering disruptive voices, ideologies, and messages. Social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google hold the potential to alter civic engagement, thus essentially hijacking democracy, by influencing individuals toward a particular way of thinking.

We can have social media or democracy (2020). As a researcher studying social media, propaganda, and politics in 2016, I thought I’d seen it all. At the time, while working at University of Oxford, I was in the thick of analyzing Twitter bot campaigns pushing #Proleave messaging during Brexit. As a research fellow at Google’s thinktank Jigsaw that same year, I bore witness to multinational disinformation campaigns aimed at the U.S. election That is nothing compared to what I am seeing in 2020. The cascade of incidents surrounding both this year’s U.S. Presidential contest as well as a multitude of other contentious political events around the globe is staggering. From doctored videos, “smart” robocalls, spoofed texts and—yes—bots, there’s an overwhelming amount of disinformation circulating on the internet.

Social Media is a Threat to Democracy (2017). This article makes a strong argument that the overall effect of social media is negative and the harms swamp the benefits. “Social media can certainly help pro-democracy movements at times, but they overall give far-right parties and authoritarians an advantage. These platforms, once seen as democracy’s ally, have increasingly become its enemy It is easier to spread misinformation on social media than to correct it, and easier to inflame social divisions than to mend them. The very nature of how we engage with Facebook and the rest now helps far-right, authoritarian factions weaken the foundations of democratic systems — and even give themselves an easier pathway to seizing power It seems we have to admit a somewhat uncomfortable truth: Social media, in the way that it’s used now, is an authoritarian medium.”

Concerns on democracy in the digital era (2020). This long document has quotes from many experts about the threats to democracy from social media.

Fake News and Democracy (2020). This article explains how social media promotes fake news how fake news is a threat to democracy.

Social media has subverted democracy (2018). Earlier, people did work to get elected. They managed to spread the word to get elected, but now, it is manipulated by a virtual world which, at times, is all about perception, deceit, and manipulation. Elections have become a referendum on virtual perceptions and false narratives. Over time, the nexus between social media and democracy will get deeper and sinister in design. A few decades ago, social workers and ground-level political workers worked their way up and won elections; now, people who manage and muddle social media end up winning. These are middlemen and power brokers. This has led to the emergence of a new breed of career politicians, who use democracy as a façade to usurp power. Politics is no more about public service, it is about celebrities, thanks to social media Media was once known as the fourth estate, but now, it has been replaced by social media. Given its vast influence over people, I would call it the psychological media. A few years ago, at a literature festival, I had said the time is not far when social media giants will become news channels. Social media has the ability to cover and ‘create’ news, the latter is dangerous for a democracy. It is not just about amplification, it is about manipulation. Recently, a global tycoon lost $15 billion over a single tweet. If we understand the impact of such actions on nations, it could lead to wars or have a much more profound influence on the future of nations. It is time to rekindle the discourse on democracy in the age of social media. We need democracy 2.0 and the debate must start now.