The changing dynamics of political communication
This session examines the role of parliament in maximizing the use of communication technologies and social media for improving citizen participation while enacting appropriate legislation and working with other government branches to limit its abuse including exploitation by terrorist organizations for political gain.
Over the past few years, social media has played a growing role in redefining the relationship between government and its citizens. Today, microblogging by politicians is often a dominant force in shaping public opinion. On the other hand, the sentiment of the citizens as measured through social media often has a direct influence on decision making in all branches of government including parliament. Some governments are taking the use of media a step further by employing it to provide a direct two-way dialogue with the citizens. Social media has become a major tool in enabling the process of political communication and influencing its outcomes. It is increasing political participation and doing so on a significant scale. Yet the opportunities for citizen participation that digital communication provides are even greater. Parliaments can take advantage of social media analytics to better gauge the sentiments of the people they represent and can develop structured frameworks for increasing political participation on a grand scale. However, there are indications that the manner in which social media is being used by politicians may be a significant factor in driving polarization of the people in certain instances. On the other hand, it may be that social media is only exposing a pre-existing polarization. Moreover, social media has also become a major weapon in the arsenal of radical political communication, and may be feeding the growth of radicalism throughout the world, as we are witnessing today. Parliaments have the very difficult responsibility of enacting appropriate legislation that exploit the digital communication platforms while at the same time limiting the abuse of such platforms.