The new media landscape continues to have broad ramifications for political participation. Or does it? Many have hoped that social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter might encourage those with minority views to express their opinions, thus broadening public discours . However, a recent study by the Pew Research Center and Rutgers University casts doubt on the claim that social media creates new forums for participation and deliberation amongst those who might otherwise remain silent. The study examined people’s opinions about the Eric Snowden case and their willingness to talk about the revelations in various settings. It found that Twitter and Facebook users were less likely to voice opinions, particularly when they thought their views were different from those of their friends to express their opinions and debate issues. Further, if people thought their friends and followers in social media disagreed with them, they were less likely to say they would state their views on online or offline. The results should not be over interpreted as the Pew/Rutgers study was limited to only the Snowden case. Different political issues could well generate different findings. What the study suggests at least is that we should be cautious about the utopian-libertarian view of social media and its power of democratic transformation. With these issues in mind, we draw attention to Politics’ special section on the use and impact of web technologies which highlights key issues in the debate over the mutually constitutive relation between social media and politics.
Michael Barr looks at Politics’ special section on the use and impact of web technologies and highlights key issues in the debate over the mutually constitutive relation between social media and politics