Week 9 (19/4): The politics of social media

Photo: SumofUs


Ready to hand in? If so, let’s look at it and discuss.

There are thousands of examples of politics and social media being absolutely intertwined in our society. It might be through protest (BLM, School Strike for Climate, Women’s March), political action (Extinction Rebellion, the Arab Spring, the Capitol riot). It might be through campaigns (Obama, Trump), or politicians connecting with their constituents (AOC seems to be particularly good at this one). If you want to start with an overview of the past decade of this topic, read this.

So when thinking about politics and social media, what do we need to know?

Platforms aren’t neutral

Despite any misconceptions that social media platforms might be “free” where you have the right to express your opinions, no matter what they are that is absolutely not the case.

Social media platforms are businesses and their objective is to make money.

A quick side note on algorithms and business:


Stop trusting people who only want to sell you a $297 “mastermind.” #tiktokmarketing #algorithm #marketing #digitalmarketing

♬ Blade Runner 2049 – Synthwave Goose

Now that we’re 100% clear that platforms aren’t benevolent places for the marginal viewpoints, we should look at a few ways that platforms interact in a non-neutral way with political information.

It might be through banning content and/or users (such as Celeste Liddle, who was suspended over posting an image of Aboriginal women with bare breasts painted with ochre, participating in a cultural ceremony).

It might be shadow banning.

It might be the whole Trump deplatforming thing.

It might be the whole Trump/Parler thing.

Any other key examples you’d like to add to the list?

Handling misinformation and disinformation

Misinformation and disinformation are both subsets of fake news.

Misinformation is false information, often spread on the internet.

Disinformation is the same, except it has a malicious intent, or is created to deliberately deceive of cause harm. Read more here.

No matter the reason, here is a very succinct strategy for dealing with mis/disinformation (from someone who is unquestionably expert):


Comments containing misinformation make real science appear less legitimate. Sometimes it’s good to turn comments off! #misinformation

♬ deja vu – Olivia Rodrigo

What about the echo chamber?

Again, it’s no surprise that what you see on socials is skewed depending on… well, a whole range of things you’ve previously done online.

This is a great explainer on Facebook and the echo chamber effect.

What is the government’s role in this?


What government restrictions are there on social media platforms in Australia?

How are these restrictions different in other countries (such as the Philippines or China)?


How is social media supporting our democracy?

And how is social media hindering (or interfering with) our democracy?

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