Does Internet Foster Democracy?

Abstract

Internet a medium of communication has been hailed as a tool to foster democracy. This short essay discusses the role of internet as a tool can have both positive and negative repercussions.

Keywords – internet, democracy.

Does internet foster democracy?

The spread and reach of internet has spread across the globe and seeing its increasing use many intellectuals have envisioned it as a means to foster democracy. But before we make any judgement about its future roles it is crucial to understand that the internet is a tool which can be used in varied ways depending upon existing epistemological and ontological understandings. A tool itself cannot foster any particular ideology or a democratic system of governance. Being a tool makes it just like any other tools in existence and for what purpose it is used depends upon the users of the tool.

Tools and technologies are just a means to an end. The end varies amongst individuals, groups, nations and organizations. Taking examples from history we get to see how technology and tools had been a boon for some and a bane for others. But what makes internet seen as a medium for increasing political empowerment and community participation is its capability to reach billions of users around the globe and its less cost. Diffusion of ideas and opinions in the past was largely reliant on newspapers, radios, televisions and pamphlets. But barring pamphlets the flow of information was largely a restricted, controlled and hierarchical process in which voices of the oppressed, marginalized, disadvantaged could be censored and limited. Political, social, environmental and other movements in the recent past and their use of internet has enthused the notion that internet can be an imperative factor to foster democracy.

Before being overly enthusiastic about its potential it is imperative to address issues of ownership and control. The freedom of dissemination of democratic ideas can be curbed by using firewalls and filters. Social engineering as a method strengthens dramatically because of internet’s ability to enter an individual’s life. Internet has given unprecedented access to information diffusion and this has been used for cultivating fear by some and spreading love by others. The pertinent issue about internet and its role is primarily determined by its user. A hammer can build and destroy depending who uses it and for what purpose.

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