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Posted on 16 November, 2016 in

How has technology influenced politics?


The rise of technology in politics has undoubtedly increased over the years. Below are some of the ways in which technology has influenced politics.

Wealth of information

Let’s start off from a general perspective, during an election campaign, there are various beliefs, viewpoints and even accusations thrown around that can overwhelm an undecided voter. But thanks to the rise of the internet, voters have a wealth of information at their disposal, this information they can use to gain a deeper understanding of the candidates, their histories, and beliefs and make an informed decision.

Social Media

Since their inception, social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter have worked as invaluable resources for politicians. Politicians can use these platforms to present a less polished version of themselves and instead present themselves as down to earth relatable individuals. This can then work to endear themselves to the voting public, which may subsequently entice viewers to vote for them.

Moreover, political candidates can use platforms like Twitter to express opinions they may not be able to say within more traditional media channels such as on TV or in the press. For example, during the 2016 presidential campaign, republican candidate Donald Trump took to Twitter to give the following views on the election:

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Although Trump subsequently expressed this view on TV and the tweet was picked up by newspapers and news websites, this may have been due to the popularity of the tweet as it had gained over 58,000 likes. This also helps show the powerful nature of social media and its influential nature in what is reported during a presidential campaign.

Going viral

Social media can be a politician’s best friend and their worst enemy. Candidates are aware of the fact that everyone they meet along their campaign trail has a smartphone they can use to catch them at the worst for the public’s amusement and become popular for all the wrong reasons.

To prevent this from happening politicians know they need to be extremely careful to not do anything that causes unwanted attention from the world. However, more often than not, it is the mundane actions they think they are safe to do that catches our eye.

For example, remember Ed Miliband, the former Labour leader who was snapped eating a bacon sandwich back in 2014? Due to the hilarity of the image it had become a trending topic worldwide.

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Moreover, while eating a sandwich seemed like an innocuous idea , it also had huge ramifications in how he was viewed in the public. As not only did this image go viral but the media even used this as an opportunity to mock his ability to run Britain effectively. Below is an image of what The Sun showed on their front page the day before the 2015 general election:

sun

The publication used the popularity and humorous connotations of this image to prevent the British public from voting for Miliband. While it is difficult to say the reason for Miliband losing the election was due to this image, it helps shows how detrimental being viral sensation can be to a political party and a politician’s prime ministerial or presidential aspirations nonetheless.

Politicians & new technology

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Finally, simply using existing technology is not enough; politicians must understand the importance of new technology and introduce new technological products and services in order to help the public. For example Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi launched MyGov.in in July 2014, an online information portal that allows Indian citizens connect with the government to air their issues and ensure good governance. Alongside this, in his September 2015 visit to the Silicon Valley he met with serial inventor Elon Musk to discuss technology that could improve the lives of those in rural areas of India.

Through having a clear focus on technology, Modi has presented himself as a forward thinking leader as it is clear to see that he understands how new technology can be used to help Indian citizens. While politicians do not necessarily need to promise to carry out the same technological initiatives undertaken by Modi, it is nonetheless important for politicians to introduce new technology specific policies for the betterment of the public they wish to serve.

Overall, it is hard to deny the influence technology can have in politics, the ways listed here helps show the various technological topics contemporary politicians need to consider when running for office. And with new technology being developed at a rapid rate, the influence of technology in politics can only grow.

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