Six or seven things social media can do for democracy

Social media often goes very wrong. Making it right requires a vision for how social media can help, not harm, society.

“We’ve not had a robust conversation about what we want social media to do for us.”

1. Social media can inform us

“The importance of social media in informing us is that it provides a channel for those excluded by the news…to have their voices and issues heard.”

2. Social media can amplify important voices and issues

“Amplification has become a new form of exercising political power.”

3. Social media can be a tool for connection and solidarity

“We’re forming new bonds of solidarity based on shared interests rather than on shared geographies.”

4. Social media can be a space for mobilization

“The power of social media to both recruit people to social movements and to organize actions offline has been well documented.”

5. Social media can be a space for deliberation and debate.

“Facebook and Twitter can be such unpleasant places because strong emotions lead to high engagement, and engagement sells ads. Engineer a different social network around different principles, and it’s possible that the deliberation and debate we might hope from a digital public sphere could happen within a platform.”

6. Social media can be a tool for showing us a diversity of views and perspectives

“Contemporary social networks have enormous potential to expose users to diverse viewpoints, but currently very few do so.”

7. Social media can be a model for democratically governed spaces

“The ways in which different networks may be necessary to accomplish multiple democratic goals points to the fact that we may not need One Network to Rule Them All, so much as we may need a diversity of networks for different purposes.”