Digital Age: Impact on Democracy in the 20th Century - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1666 Words
Date:  2023-01-23


A considerable part of the 20th century has witnessed unprecedented growth in information technology and the digital age on a scale not previously imagined (Pew Research Center, 2004). Communication by peoples and entities at any point in the world has been enabled by almost light-speed internet connectivity. Even more, this ease in the dissemination of information has been critical to their influence on democracies. The Internet has dramatically enabled government activity and the citizens' participation in the activities of their governments as a platform of engagement. The function and potential of the Internet at the current evolutionary phase is extensive and holds the key to the prospects of democracy and governance. Let us now discuss how by first exploring the function of the Internet on democracy and look into its potential too.

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The Function of the Internet on Democracy

Our knowledge and experience with the Internet in coming years, or lack of it, will significantly impact how future generations will undertake their governance. However, little focus has been placed on how mass communication and information and communication technology could be affecting the dynamics of democracies. A little information, though, has been published on the employment of the world wide web by the traditional political parties and not on how flames of activism are being fanned by the connectivity the ordinary citizens are experiencing.

Democracies thrive by freedom of communication and information by its citizens. In recent years, being able to choose a leader through free and fair election processes do not necessarily define democracy. In as much as traditional printing press cannot be said to have spurred democracy in many nations but it could be hard to imagine the significant role in improving the literacy level of many citizens with was necessary to come up with self-rule and governance structures.

Notably, it is essential to be interested in the kind of literacy that the Internet is providing the citizens. The reason being the knowledge acquired in this endeavor can be better suited to bolster democracy. Thinking in this line make us even check on our priorities. What could be of more value to the people, is it wealth, health, leisure through the media without freedom? Analyzing this question makes us realize that without civil liberties, every other form of pleasure is simply of no value to the citizens.

Every aspect of democracy, the political processes, and also governance, are significantly impacted by every sort of technology employed for communication. For instance, the same professional entities that are entrusted with the task of airing candidates and their issues on the television media are the same ones that advertise other consumer commodities. Therefore the amount that a candidate wishes to spend on advertising through television impacts considerably on the success of that one's election to office. The broadcasters, on the other hand, find it as an opportunity to cash in.

The Internet has, on the other hand, has proven to be a game changer. It has turned every desktop into a press of sorts. A simple desktop computer can now be used widely from printing campaign material, broadcasting the candidates' messages and even an avenue of rallying and assembly of audiences. The Internet being such an electoral Swiss-knife of sorts, some critical questions remain to be answered: With the potential that the Internet has made available, will an adequate segment of the population learned how to make good use of it? Or, shall misinformation, ignorance, and lack of experience on the use of the Internet as a tool in the field of politics hinder consolidation of power, capital, and knowledge that is availed by this new age of digital media?

The Internet avails a lot of political power to the citizens would be mistakenly visualized from a technology standpoint. In as much as technology provides improved information dissemination through publishing, journalism, and public discussion, it does not guarantee whether the power it portends will be fully utilized. Thus it is not clear whether it is the masses, the represented, the opposing groups, or the ruling elites that will fully employ the high power that the Internet provides. Media houses too with their role of informing the masses have vested interests and uneasy competition with the masses. Hence, the Internet is employed to serve the interests of those having the wealth and power to wield its potential.

On the other hand, because any personal computers connected to the Internet can be used to publish party ideas, broadcast real-time events, create a platform from which people can deliberate on various political issues. The exchange of views and information by the public on matters that affect them creates an environment that makes it fertile for democracy and the related processes. Otherwise, this information exchange breeds democratic revolutions such as the Arab Spring in 2011, where the citizens overthrew many incumbents. This brings about the notion of public governance.

In the past, few wielded power availed by the broadcast communications thus influencing public opinions. During the event of a coup d'etat, these communications systems that enabled information broadcast were first controlled to allow for public control by influencing their opinion. With currently available technologies, things have changed. Barriers that existed earlier have been abolished by the personal computer and the Internet. No longer there cannot exist one party that fully controls public opinion through broadcasting. Technology has evolved too rapidly that everyone in the political arena is merely trying very much to catch up and extract the full potential of the current technologies.

The Potential of the Internet on Democracy

Increased public participation on the political process and governance has opened a myriad of possibilities on the future of democracy. Social media has largely influenced the political dynamics democracies. Many can now follow and obtain up-to-date information on their desired candidates. They can also discuss their desires and air their grievances too to their leaders and with each other. Power to influence public opinion is no longer the privilege of the powerful, the wealthy or the elite but any constituent with access to the Internet can now air his or her views and receive the attention of the electorate.

Free access and freedom to information have enabled more people to be able to be informed on the current events in the political sphere. A person can log into their own social media account or other information portals available over the Internet and be able to follow the current events. The dangers of information overload are evident, making one paralyze their decision-making process on their best choices. Misinformation can be easily employed by those inclined to smear campaigns which may malign legitimate candidates. This would ultimately hamper the positive impact of the Internet on the democratic processes that many of the electorates would have envisioned with the use of the Internet.

Propaganda can still be employed, albeit on a minimal scale even though gullible users might never realize it. Hate speech and racist comments fuelling tensions on rival parties may be highly used. Otherwise, real success by different candidates can also be broadcast via the Internet to enable the electorate to decide on which to vote. Big media outlets that may hold sway on the dynamics of the democratic population is hugely put under control. Thus the political processes can continue with reduced biased influence from the fifth estate.

The citizenry has to be well versed on the use of the Internet to get the full advantage of its use. The various platforms provided by the Internet enables a thriving public sphere where the exchange of ideas and discussion of the issues affecting them can take place. With so much freedom on the Internet, the democratic environment and ideals could easily thrive. However, government sanctions and heavy-handedness can also prove to be detrimental to democracy. Internet censorship and having an iron grip on the content provided by state-controlled parties may significantly stifle the democratic atmosphere.

Tight government control on the media, especially the Internet, has already been witnessed in countries such as China and North Korea, a situation that led to a thriving monarchy or dictatorship. These are the case where there is no freedom of or access to information suffocating democracy. This mocks the notion of civil liberty and fundamental human rights to association and exchange of ideas and beliefs.

A case of privacy also comes to light. With so many connected via the Internet and sharing a lot of information; as a result, an example of prying parties comes to the fore. The governments and other sinister entities might wish to gather data secretly on the views held by the citizens with motives to enable the government to propagate its sustenance or stifle dissidents. With such practices, the democracy of any nation would be a danger of falling into oblivion as the citizenry would be in fear of reprisal by their government for airing their views that may be at odds with the incumbents. This brings to fore the double-edged nature of the Internet and the dangers of its misuse.


The Internet has proven to be a great tool that has propelled democracies to levels that would not have been envisioned in the past century. Citizens can participate in a matter that deals with governance and political processes. Fast broadcasting of information and the ubiquitous nature of the Internet has enabled a considerable number of people to be informed and thus empowered to participate in a democratic atmosphere.

Despite the positive impact of the Internet on democracy, ill-intentioned use can significantly stifle democracy. Despots have risen by simple chocking the flow of information to the masses and thus controlling the public opinion as a result. This causes the citizens to avoid the democratic process for fear of reprisals from the ruling elites that enforce their crooked will on the masses.


Pew Research Center. (2004). The Internet and Democratic Debate. Retrieved from

Rheingold, H. (2019). How Will The Internet Influence Democracy?. Retrieved from

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Digital Age: Impact on Democracy in the 20th Century - Essay Sample. (2023, Jan 23). Retrieved from

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