Democracy is being disrupted, perhaps like never before. The question is, are we seeing the rise of Democracy 2.0 or the digital version of riots and uprisings? Or do we have to accept that this is how we live now?
Democracy 1.0 (or perhaps we are further along than that, given the blood-drenched history of Governments being overthrown) said that citizens elected people to represent their interests and let them do the work for them. And they did and reported back when something had gone well and made them look good.
Democracy 2.0 seems to say that everyone can have a say, everyone can be an expert, and politicians should do exactly what they want.
And they express these opinions and make these demands on platforms owned by the new super-elite. It is, to say the least, a strange situation.
Meanwhile, politicians also use social media for their own political ends, so they rely on these platforms to get their messages out too.
This gives social media platforms and their owners’ unprecedented power over people who are used to having unprecedented power over them. And gives ordinary people unprecedented access and influence over politicians.
It is easy to see that social media is true democracy as everyone has a voice that anyone can hear. But it is also easy to see that; frankly, there are too many lunatics and extremists on Facebook, Twitter, et al. and that it is impossible to call their demands democracy in any form.
When democratically elected politicians use social media to incite unrest or encourage ‘direct action’, then the power of social media owners seems to be total. They are calling the shots.
Democracy is on the brink of the tensest face-off in recent history.
Oversight boards, such as the one Facebook set up, and surveys, such as the one that Twitter undertook, are all very well, but it is becoming increasingly clear in our open, sharing, caring world that politicians and politics are yesterday’s people and that it is now large tech corporations who wield power.
Most of these companies spend millions of dollars lobbying to make policy work in their favour. Yet their power is now so large that they could save those millions and use their platforms as their lobbyist. It is possible that some may do so already.
What the outcome will be in the social media vs politicians game is anyone’s guess. The oversight board decision on Trump will be important and perhaps provide clues as to exactly where Democracy 2.0 will lead us.
Let us hope it leads us towards common sense, not chaos.