Democracy's Double- Edged Sword: How Internet Use Changes Citizens' Views of Their Government

By Anderson, Judy | Journal of Information Ethics, April 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Democracy's Double- Edged Sword: How Internet Use Changes Citizens' Views of Their Government


Anderson, Judy, Journal of Information Ethics


Democracy's Double-edged Sword: How Internet Use Changes Citizens' Views of Their Government Catie Snow Ballard. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014. 162 pp. $34.95.

A well informed citizenry is considered a key component for democratic governance. For centuries, the oratory and the written word have had an impact on elections and how governments manage their citizenry. Knowing how media affects and influences its audience can be valuable to both those in power and those who support change in the political structure of their country. Within recent history in the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt used the air waves in his radio Fireside Chats to engage the American public and persuade it to support his policies and programs. More recently, social media was used to move now President Obama into the political limelight. In Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete is the first President to have to deal with citizens who have Internet access and are now seeing other democracies in action in real time. As of 20i4, more than 86 percent of persons in the United States, and more than 42 percent worldwide (Internet World Stats: Usage and Population Statistics, http://www. internetworldstats.com/stats.htm) have access to the Internet's wealth of global information and political coverage, and the opportunity to be well versed in the issues of the day.

Traditionally, governments have been able to control much of the media coverage on the political front. Access to the Internet has changed that paradigm. With news stations around the globe and social media easily accessible via the Web, many opinions are expressed and exploited. Author Katie Snow Ballard was curious about how this expanded access might affect how persons view their government. Her work shows a major undertaking in data collection and analysis. Her research tracks whether the volume and diverse viewpoints expressed on the open Web result in citizens contrasting the differences among their version of democracy and those of other countries. If it does have an impact, is that awareness enough to stir people to become active in their country's politics, to either support or make changes to it? Ballard's subjects come from countries across the globe whose government models fall along a continuum from non-democratic to highly democratic. …

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