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The Future of Democracy in the Age of Social Media

Ahmet Celik, PhD


Senior Expert
Global Center for Security Studies

Nowadays, in certain countries, it is really difficult to find a brand-new vehicle with mechanical key system, most of which can be operated by a remote control without requiring to push any button. If you approach your car with a key fob in your pocket the car automatically unlocks its doors. If you have a car with keyless start and stop system you can just get into your car and press a button to start the engine.

Working principle of key fob is also simple: if you put your hand to your car door handle, your car starts constantly to broadcast radio signals.  In case your keyless fob is less than five-meter range of the car, then your car automatically unlocks the doors.

While new technological developments make our life easier, crooks always find a way to turn our life into a nightmare. This is like a cat and mouse game, but it seems that crooks are one step ahead. For instance, crooks have found a new sophisticated way to steal keyless cars within 60 seconds. By this method, a crook can get in and drive your car easily as if its his car, basically tricking your car into thinking its entry fob is nearby. In order to do that they just use relatively cheap devices. With the help of such high-tech hacking tools, car theft incidents have increased 44 percent in the Greater Manchester in recent years.[1]

When technology is unable to protect your car, you find a way to protect yourself with old fashioned measures, such as using of crook locks, parking post installation, or the wheel clamp. It is obvious that returning back to manual methods for saving your car when high-tech has no capacity to protect your car is the best survival plan to go. What would you do if crooks try to steal your democracy by implementing high-tech features? Would you again return back to the manual methods to save your democracy? Although these are really challenging questions to answer, nowadays, it is crystal clear that crooks are on duty to hijack our democracy. And the answer to the question of “How do they try to hijack our democracy?” is simple: by the use of social media.

Social media has become a part of everyday life in the modern era. Because of the fact that social media is one of the most preferable medium to exchange ideas, feelings, personal information, pictures and videos, almost babies are born with their social media accounts, which is predetermined imaginary by their genetic codes embedded to their DNA,

The social media undeniably plays an important role during the emergency situations. For instance, people organized and raised through Facebook more than $20 million for relief efforts after the Hurricane Harvey. Social media is also one of the most powerful medium for people to raise their voice in any representative democracy. For instance, Twitter and Facebook were crucial in overthrowing dictators of the Middle East at the times of Arab Spring, both of which played important roles. Whereas one side of the social media has helped spreading idealism throughout the world, the other side of it has started to lose its apolitical nature.

Despite the fact that the social media was originally developed by the inspiration of idealism in order to connect friends and family members with each other, people as well as political parties have seen it a relevant platform to channel their political energy that has turned into a political battle field for people from all walks of life.

The social media has become a perfect tool to divide otherwise a united society, which is a serious threat for the democracy itself. This tricky tool is used by both internal and external users. Most of the autocratic regimes around the world also use the social media for their political purpose. They employ the social media platforms for disseminating fake news and hate speeches to manipulate public opinion by thousands of fake troll squads under their payroll. Furthermore, they block the news against their interest by illegitimate court orders or intimidation tactics. Social media companies usually comply with immoral requests from government authorities in order not to lose their financial gains.

Threats may also come from a foreign adversary as it happened in 2016 Presidential election in the USA, where Russian trolls created approximately 80,000 posts that possibly effected minds of around 126 million voters over a two-year period. This kind of foreign interference goes against everything that democracy stands for. Now how can we trust a democratic regime that are not governed ultimately by the will of its constituencies? Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to this. Can we protect our democracy by going back to its basic form? However, it sounds as a dystopian possibility, we might need to start implementing direct democracy like Athenian one by the random selection of ordinary citizens for administrative, judicial, and legislative bodies in the state in order to protect the democratic regime from foreign interferences.[2]

This, evidently, will be a very radical move in this age of technology. In his testimony before the US Senate, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg confessed that “We didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy. We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here”[3] It is obvious that accepting his own failure is the first step to moving forward. As an honest CEO we hope that he could accomplish to bring back the idealist origin of his platform in order to prevent devastating attacks coming from realist political establishments. We would like to see similar steps from all the other social media platforms to save the democracy, otherwise, the world order will totally be shattered once and for all, and there will be no immediate U turn from it.

[1] https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/keyless-car-relay-theft-advice-14496158

[2] https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/dlcammack/files/cammack-rethinking_athenian_democracy.pdf

[3] https://www.firstpost.com/world/full-text-of-mark-zuckerbergs-testimony-before-us-senate-facebook-ceo-apologises-multiple-times-for-companys-failures-4426699.html

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