In many countries, Facebook is one of the few alternatives to the government-aligned outlets that dominate national media ecosystems. That is why authorities have devoted so many resources to manipulating it, and why the company must take responsibility for stopping them.https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/facebook-ban-trump-world-leaders-by-courtney-c-radsch-2021-07
Which led me to ask myself this question: what are the long term costs and benefits of having political parties on social media, and whether it makes sense to ban them from being on it?
- In these politically charged times, disclaimers might be a good way to start. This is not about Trump and Facebook, which is what the article I excerpted from is about. Nor is it about Twitter and the Indian government. It is about, more broadly speaking, the separation of societal discourse from discourse led by, shaped by and manipulated by, political parties. All political parties from all nations across all social media platforms.
- What is the aim of political parties on social media? Are they playing the non-zero game of asking what is best for their country (and preferably the world)? Or are they playing the zero-sum game of showing how the other side is wrong?
- Do they lead by example in terms of what societal discourse ought to be like? I know what my answer is to this question. If yours is yes, and you are willing to engage in a conversation, I would love to learn why my answer is wrong.
- My utopian societal discourse is one in which I take the help of others to learn what is best. And I hope to do this by improving my own knowledge and thinking, by conversing with others.
- Perhaps I’m too cynical when I say this, but this is not the aim of any political party on any social media platform. The aim of any political party on any social media platform is to prove “The Other” wrong. More, to insist that glory for your tribe/state/nation is all that matters. Still more, to insist that this glorious destination can only be reached via supporting “Us”, not “The Other”.
- Political parties play the zero sum game on social media. And we get sucked into playing that game ourselves.
- They’re not the root cause of the state of societal discourse, to be clear. But have they made the problem worse? Maybe I’m blinkered in my view, but I fail to see how this is not the case.
- The devil, as always, lies in the details. Are representatives of political parties to be allowed? If yes, are they free to make political statements? Who decides? This is not, I’m very aware, a very practical solution to the problem I’m highlighting. But I’ll make two final points.
- I’d much rather have this conversation than a debate on whether America should rein in Facebook, and whether India should ban Twitter, or any other match the following of your choice.
- If the two alternatives given to me are a country without social media of my choice, OR social media of my choice without political parties’ handles on it, I’m going with the latter.
- The truth lies somewhere in the middle. But maybe there’s merit in approaching the middle from this side of the spectrum rather than that one? (Yes, I know, third point. But this is my platform, and therefore my choice.)