We are living in the age of digital era when consumption of politics and political activities are become inevitable because we are all carrying a platform in shape of smartphones of having features of social media. These social media apps are nonetheless unlike a platform where almost all political parties have their representations more or less or in other sense, those who have more reach upon voters are exploiting more and having chance to take edge upon their counterparts somehow or in indirect sense, we can say we are living in the age of platform democracy- when democracy is negotiating with such digital gadgets who are carrying politics and political activities through  platforms.

During 2012 Assembly election of Uttar Pradesh when role of media was noticed first time in India when media has been given eight issues to the politics and politicians of UP which became contentious between them in the election. Prior to that there was conventional thinking that the political issues generally came from political parties and its base who shaped it further in shape of manifestos which later became political voice of concerned political parties. But, after 2012, there was a shift taken place in the country when say of media were noticed and over a period of time, it further multiplied when number of smartphone users has touched the mark of 660 million in the country. In fact, India is heading towards largest democracy who have such a large number of adult franchise who are using platform simultaneously.  In India, the number of users of social media platforms increased tremendously in last few years and that enabled to join in the club of top ten social media users in the world. With the ease of internet access, the number of social media users in India stood at 326.1 million in 2018 and expecting to be 448 million by 2023. Facebook remained the popular choice among social media platforms as of 2017. During Covid-19 pandemic these social media was considered as part of living when mostly people was confined inside their residents under lockdown. BJP held an Online political rally in Bihar to warm up their supporters and aggressively used the digital mechanism to convey their political messages.

Platform democracy is becoming our daily features which we have to negotiate it in different capacities either consumed it fully or partially but rejection is a serious issue that how can live without the technology. Such cognitive decisions are shaping multiple issues that what we are encountering every day on our platform. Lives beyond platform democracy is unimagined. The word platform democracy is coined by Martin Moore in his book Democracy Hacked: Political Turmoil and Information Warfare in the Digital Age (2018) to understand that how States are using digital technologies in order hacked democracy to negotiate with power.

The relationship between social media and democracy has been widely noticed since Arab spring 2011, but, after 2016 US election, the 2018 Brazilian election and, the 2019 Indian election, the faith on social media in regard to save and strengthen democracy shaken at some extent. The two year back incident from Brazil when during inauguration of Brazil’s new far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro  in early January, the crowd of his supporters begin a surprising. They weren’t cheering for Bolsonaro or his running mate or their party; instead, they were reciting the names of social media platforms. “Facebook, Facebook, Facebook!” the crowd yelled. “WhatsApp, WhatsApp, WhatsApp!” Such cheering, of course, raises some concern which need to be answer that how and at what extent democratic features diluted or undermined or concocted in India as well. Recent allegation levelled against Facebook in India was an action in that direction when people started questioning the sanctity of platforms. Meanwhile, apart from election, democracy comprises many more features-independent voice, dissent, political respect, etc. Although, in India, situation is not away from Brazil or USA, the use of social media during election has been noticed extensively because of largest potential for digital business including political business capacities in India.

The consequences of social media in fact started after Arab Spring. Social media can certainly help pro-democracy movements at times, but they overall give far-right parties and authoritarians advantage as well. These social media platforms, once seen as democracy’s voice, have increasingly become its enemy over period of time.

Henceforth,  it is easier to spread misinformation on social media than to correct it, and easier to inflame social and political divisions than to mend them. The very nature of how we engage with Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram now helps far-right, and authoritarian factions to weaken the foundations of democratic systems-and some extent it is unlike to give themselves an easier pathway to seizing power. It seems we have to admit a somewhat uncomfortable truth: social media, in the way that it’s used now, is an authoritarian medium.[1]

In fact, such perspective ignores the fundamentally non-democratic qualities of social media. This includes the distribution of power, in which social media platforms dictate limitations-such as, Facebook can remove post, if found, the content can hurt someone else or twitter now allowed 280 words by October 2019 onwards. Therefore, such changes shaped the social media further wherein algorithms affect the organization of information online and, in effect, make the platforms unequal. The mere existence of advertising on social media platforms further detracts from the democratic potential. Furthermore, the phenomenon of fake news is concerning, as the validity of news content affects beliefs and actions of the people. Although the potential for increased and easier communication, and the ability to organize political efforts via social media does exist, the critical flaws cannot ignored.

Despite offering the potential for increased democratic activity, the current structure and uses harm citizen involvement while giving them the potential to thrive, particularly, twisting the democratic features where each layer of democracy is under threat from artificial intelligence (AI) augmented social media.

Shekh Moinuddin is completed his MA, Mphil, and PhD from Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, Delhi. He is teaching in Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, and authored five

[1] For more details, see, https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/1/22/18177076/social-media-facebook-far-right-authoritarian-populism, accessed Sep. 13, 2020.


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