North Texas Daily

How much has the internet changed politics?

How much has the internet changed politics?

How much has the internet changed politics?
November 02
16:11 2016

By The Editorial Board

Most of us have spent a third of our lives under the Obama administration. An essential part of a generation’s socio-political makeup is molded by their president’s policies. These last eight years have included the rise of social media, and politicians are no strangers to the conversation.

The internet is more influential on our politics now than ever before, and this has caused a tension between our generation and those who came before us. But we all must be patient and realize our method of communication is in a different age, one we have to navigate together – no matter which president we get stuck with.

Social media is now in every facet of our lives. From visual storytelling on Snapchat to building the ultimate resume through LinkedIn to unlocking your inner social justice warrior on Tumblr, you need a username and password to just to stay in the know.

Obama adapted wisely to this age of information with his 2008 campaign spending about $643,000 on Facebook promotion alone. This marked the beginning of an unprecedented use of the internet for politicians to connect with the public.

It also interceded two time periods: one when Facebook was launched nine months before Bush’s re-election and another which sees our current candidates bickering on Twitter. Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and their ilk have abused the internet, transforming themselves into memes in the process.

Judging by how allegedly corrupt Clinton and Trump have been accused of being to begin with, turning accessible forums like YouTube into springboards for opposition was always inevitable. Since the majority of the most popular smartphone apps are free to practically everyone, the average politician has the opportunity to entice controversy at any time – with only their egos to wax.

In turn, anyone on the internet can voice their political views, which is great for some but fair game to plenty of others just wanting to argue. It also means that the overwhelming growth of technology has made, and will continue to make, political corruption increasingly digitized.

Hillary is the poster child of online political depravity, but the internet can also be used to help society. The Panama Papers investigation comes to mind.

In what is widely heralded as “the biggest leak in data journalism” history, more than 370 reporters obtained leaked documents exposing global tax evasion within the highest classes of several countries. Managed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based in Washington, D.C., the Panama Papers included more than 4.8 million emails, 3 million database files and 2.1 million PDFs.

Our candidates’ corruption isn’t quite on that global scale (yet). However, the archival nature of internet use makes once-hidden crimes more difficult to get away with. Clinton, Trump and Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller can make fools of themselves all election long, but justice can still be served through online means.

Screenshot of Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller's deleted tweet.

Screenshot of Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller’s deleted tweet. File Photo.

We all know there is an uneasy transition from print and televised journalism, and the contemporary breed of reporters and politicians are attempting to adapt together. This is all being captured on social media, which is the world millennials basically grew up in, so it’s tempting to feel invaded by aging authorities. But this election should not spoil the internet for you.

Look at cable television. Most people who pay for cable do so in order to receive a monthly wealth of channels. Paying your internet bill isn’t much different. Instead of subscribing to multiple newspapers each month, it’s more economic for the common man to secure online media than to clutter their homes with newsprint.

Earlier this year, the Pew Research Center surveyed 3,760 U.S. adults and found 65 percent of them learned about this election through cable, social networks, local TV and online news. In contrast, only 4 percent acquired their information from print.

While the internet continues to improve at a steady incline, we believe that the pros outweigh the cons as far its relationship with politics goes. For every shady secretary of state, foreign businessman or sketchy catfish, there will always be someone quick to combat them virtually.

Featured Illustration: Samuel Wiggins

About Author

Preston Mitchell

Preston Mitchell

Preston served as the Opinion Editor of the North Texas Daily from July 2016 to July 2017, and is a UNT graduate of integrative studies.

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