This article examines the relationship that exists between the government and the new media and how this relationship affects politics. The nature of politics has dramatically changed over the years especially with the advent of new media. The media has always played a significant role in shaping how politics are conducted and how the public express their political opinions. However, traditional media forms continuously operated under specific journalism principles, rules, and standards which ensured that news disseminated was factual and sensitive to the needs of the public. Traditional media was often regulated by the government and were held accountable for any misgivings or misleading information. However, with the rise of new media and the internet, the government has lost control over media regulation, and the platform now has untrained people who do not understand the ethics of journalism. These people disseminate information that may be misleading to the public and corrupt the public’s perception of the government. This article examines the relationship that exists between the government and the new media and how this relationship affects politics.
The media play a crucial role in the democracy of any society. The primary objective of the press is to provide information to citizens to enable them to make informed decisions about policy, politics, and leadership. The media acts as the watchdog for society especially when it comes to the actions of the government. Media set the agenda for discussion of issues by the public and provide a platform for people and politicians to voice their opinions. The media also facilitate community development by assisting people to problems, formulate civic groups, and work in unison to find resolutions to common societal problems (Davis and Owen, 2014). Legendary media channels include television networks, radio stations, and magazines. However, there is a rise of new media that has completely shifted the way politics and public opinions are conducted and expressed. New media are communication channels that facilitate the collection, production and transmission and exchange of political and social news on platforms that allow for collaboration and interaction. These forms of media have rapidly evolved over the past two decades and continue to grow in new and unanticipated methods.
New media have significant impacts on democracy and political processes. They have significantly transformed how political leaders communicate and how public institutions perform their operations. They have substantially altered the political media streams and redefined the roles and responsibilities of the press and journalists as a whole. However, the advancement of new media has made the political system of the media more complicated. Traditional forms of media are increasingly collaborating with new media to determine the way news, and political messages are disseminated and transmitted to masses (Allcott and Gentzkow, 2017). New forms of media include social media, blogs, websites, and digital apps which continue to grow in numerous innovative ways. New media transmit information directly to the public without the interference of editors or the government. For this reason, therefore, new media have brought about increased levels of unpredictability and instability in the process of political communication. This paper, therefore, examines the relationship between the government and new media channels which mainly operate through the use of the internet.
One of how new media especially social media has altered political practices is the rapid speed in which rumors, news, and poll results are shared. In the days preceding the internet age, citizens and the world over had to wait for the next episode of news or the next newspaper edition to come out before they could get the latest political information. However, with the rise of social media, dissemination of news take place round the clock. Social media has gone to even greater lengths (Davis and Owen, 2014). Although people can access political forums or news on several websites at any time, the majority of the people now spend time on social sites such as Twitter and Facebook than they spend on serious websites that transmit political news. The flipside to this is that the news being shared on social media platforms are not valid and analyzed by expert journalists Barthel, M., Mitcell, A., & Holcomb, J. (2016). This information may sometimes include rumors and false allegations which negatively impact the perception of the public towards the government thus interfering with the trust of the people in the government.
Another significant issue is that of the impact of social media on election polls. Political polls are essential in any political campaign because they give a perspective of a candidate’s position. However, just like with other forms of political news, the internet has significantly increased the number of poll results that are produced each day. Not only do social sites on the internet report poll results but they also allow users to participate in the polls (Allcott and Gentzkow, 2017). Although these poll results may sometimes be flawed, they have a significant influence on the outcomes of the elections. For example, when poll results show that one candidate is way ahead of the other, they might not see the need to vote for the supposedly losing candidate. When people and social sites post poll results on the internet throughout the day, it motivates political candidates to work hard to get at per or beat their opponents.
The internet and especially social media also have positive effects on politics. Through these sites, voters can interact more easily and directly with political candidates. Before the rise of social media, people would have to attend live events and political gatherings to meet with politicians. Even in these situations, the public did not have the opportunity to air their concerns or also ask questions because of time and security (Davis and Owen, 2014). However, modern technology and the internet have made it possible for the public to attend events virtually where they can interact with the candidates and even raise concerns or questions. The internet through direct sharing has also enabled political candidates to recognize the needs of the people and know how better to formulate their agendas.
Additionally, the internet has made it easier for politicians to target specific audiences and their campaigns. Targeting is a method used by advertisers to ensure that adverts reach specific audiences that they are targeting. This advancement has also been made possible in politics through social media. For example, if a political candidate intends to address concerns of retirees, minority groups, women, or college students, social media now allows them the opportunity to tailor these messages specifically to these people (Allcott and Gentzkow, 2017). Similar to how advertisers on Facebook can use targeted advertising and analytics, politicians can also do the same to reach specific intended audiences. It has been helpful for the government because it has made it easier for politicians to reach particular audiences in confidence and air their views.
Furthermore, the internet and the new media are has led to increases in trends that undermine the objectives of a democracy of the press. These new media disseminate vast amounts of political news although much of the news is polarizing, trivial and unreliable. The traditional watchdog function of the media was performed by trained and qualified journalists who understood the basics of news and the impact of falsehood and propaganda on society. For this reason, therefore, traditional journalists adhered to the ethics and rules of journalism only basing their information on facts and confirmed truths (Barthel, Mitcell, and Holcomb, 2016). However, much of the news aired or disseminated through new media is defined by sensational scandals and propaganda. Often, news distributed through social media is not factually proven and contains bias content.
This falsehood is problematic to the government because most of the news is misleading to the population, and this makes citizens lose faith in the government. New media has resulted in scarcity in the number of professional news editors who are able to control and regulate information flow. Professional journalists apply ethical standards and principles for the good of the public (Barthel, Mitcell, and Holcomb, 2016). Professional journalists have been replaced by social media editors and analysts who are primarily motivated to produce content regardless of its value of truth. News on social media is disseminated in the absence of professionals to filter, fact-check, or make editorial judgments. These individuals do not have any training or expertise in journalism, but unfortunately, they can reach masses at the speed of lightning (Allcott and Gentzkow, 2017). This situation, therefore, means that social media consumers have the difficult task of distinguishing fiction from fact and fallacies from truths.
In conclusion, from the discussion above it is clear that the relationship between the government and the media especially the internet is both positive and negative. The government uses internet platforms such as social media sites to reach masses in short time durations. The government also gains from the poll results that are enforced and emphasized by social media to know its position in the polls and devise strategies of gaining an upper-hand over its opponents. However, the relationship between the government and the internet is mostly negative. Social media platforms disseminate news that is not factually correct and this issue impacts negatively on the confidence, trust, and loyalty of the people towards the government. The government feels frustrated by the internet primarily because it cannot regulate the content that is aired and therefore the trend will continue. Internet platforms should be sensitive to the needs of the people and strive to broadcast accurate news.
Allcott, H., & Gentzkow, M. (2017). Social media and fake news in the 2016 election. Journal of economic perspectives, 31(2), 211-36.
Barthel, M., Mitcell, A., & Holcomb, J. (2016). Many Americans believe fake news is sowing confusion. Pew Research Center, December 15, 2016.
Davis, R., & Owen, D. M. (2014). New media and American politics. Oxford University Press on Demand.