From Liberation to Turmoil: Social Media and Democracy

Issue Date October 2017
Volume 28
Issue 4
Page Numbers 46-59
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How can one technology—social media—simultaneously give rise to hopes for liberation in authoritarian regimes, be used for repression by these same regimes, and be harnessed by antisystem actors in democracy? We present a simple framework for reconciling these contradictory developments based on two propositions: 1) that social media give voice to those previously excluded from political discussion by traditional media, and 2) that although social media democratize access to information, the platforms themselves are neither inherently democratic nor nondemocratic, but represent a tool political actors can use for a variety of goals, including, paradoxically, illiberal goals.

About the Authors

Joshua A. Tucker

Joshua A. Tucker is professor of politics and a cofounder and codirector of the Social Media and Political Participation (SMaPP) laboratory at New York University.

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Yannis Theocharis

Yannis Theocharis is a research fellow at the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research (MZES).

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Margaret E. Roberts

Margaret E. Roberts is a professor in the Department of Political Science and the Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute of the University of California, San Diego.

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Pablo Barberá

Pablo Barberá is assistant professor in the School of International Relations at the University of Southern California.

View all work by Pablo Barberá