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11/03/2011 / stjornmal

How is the internet changing politics?

The media is where politics happen for most people. People all around the world use the internet every day to learn, to communicate, to do business, to be entertained etc. To understand the massive impact media has on our lives we have to realize what life would be like without it. In ancient Athens, where democracy was first established (461-322 BC), people would gather in assembly about 40 times a year, where they could speak their minds and try to influence one another in the political process. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, newspapers were the key to political communication development for literacy had increased rapidly and without literacy newspapers would only serve relatively few high class individuals. In the twentieth century broadcasting such as cinema newsreels, radio and later television lead to a new form of communication with the mass public. Instead of the written form it was now reported orally and became more personal. Those who still could not read, could now listen to reports (Hague & Harrop, 2010). The appearance of the internet in the late 21st century changed the form of communication yet again. The Internet has developed dramatically in the last decades and has become the most popular media channel with millions of users (Digital Life, 2010)

With the fast growing evolution of the internet, it has become more and more important and recognized as a tool to reach to the public. Politicians are now more often using blogs to speak their minds directly to their supporters without having to rely on reporters and more people turn to the internet for news about politics. Politicians use communication websites such as Facebook or Twitter as a tool to bring them closer to voters. The blog and communication sites, like Facebook and Twitter allow politicians to share their thoughts and opinions directly and keep better contact with the public. It also allows them to correct incorrect news reports fast and a chance to repair their reputation. Politicians can not only reach their local voters and supporters, they can reach people all over the globe through the internet. They no longer have to count on news reporters to become interested in what they have to say or offer.

Politicians are now commonly using the internet in their campaigns. Howard Dean’s campaign in 2004 was groundbreaking in its use of the internet. Through the Internet Howard was able to raise money from hundreds of thousands of people. This would not have been possible without the internet, for it allowed easy approach to supporters. Barak Obama used the Internet to organize his supporters in a new way and therefor saved a lot of money and did not have to lean on the assistant of volunteers. Web sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter has given campaigners free advertising form that reaches millions of internet users.

The recent protests in Egypt were a good example of how powerful the internet is as a tool. Protesters used Facebook and chat rooms on the internet to gather people and organize a massive protest with the result of the president resigning from office. The internet also allows people around the globe to participate in events in one place such as the recent protests. The internet can serve as the public eye, and be helpful in pressuring governments in certain countries to change their policies or pressure them into respecting peoples rights.



Leave a Comment
  1. Simon Barker / Mar 16 2011 00:28

    But is all of this good, how open is this same resource to abuse – by politicians, governments, social movements, even individuals. Is it worth the risk?
    And is it necessarily that conducive to democracy. Shorter attention spans, fragmentation gone hyperactive, objectivity and accountability thrown out of the window. Could these aspects undermine all the benefits and subvert the principles that liberal democracy relies upon?


  1. Internet exploitation « Comparative Politics

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