How Social Media Can Impact an Election

How Social Media Can Impact an Election

( – The 2020 presidential election is likely to go down as one of the most contentious in this nation’s history. Critics of President Trump grow more vocal every day, while allegations of sexual misconduct and cognitive decline continue to plague his opponent, Democratic nominee Joe Biden. In addition, the growing controversy around postal voting in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and political divisions are likely to plunge our daily news cycle further into hostility and aggression in the coming weeks.

One item that hasn’t come up for discussion to the same extent this year (despite its prominence after the 2016 election) is social media. However, social platforms have become more central to daily life than ever over the last four years, and they are sure to play a massive role in this election.

Targeted ads might be the main reason why social media is so effective when it comes to influencing election results. Have you ever discussed a product or service with a friend on an instant messaging service before seeing ads for that very product or service on your Facebook feed? Tech companies use your data to produce ads like these, and they can capitalize on your political leanings, as well. If you consistently view political content of a certain type on the internet, you’ll begin to see ads for the candidate who most closely represents that type of content.

Targeted ads, generally speaking, are impartial. However, that’s not the case with everything you’ll see online. Censorship of conservative voices has become an increasingly prevalent problem over the last few years. While left-leaning pundits can get away with saying almost anything online, right-wingers have to be much more careful about how and when they express their views.

While this kind of censorship might not affect the voting intentions of a staunch conservative, or someone who knows better than to be swayed by what they see online, these are not the people who win or lose elections. Censorship is dangerous because it affects every voter, particularly individuals with minimal interest in politics and current affairs. If these people tend only to see and hear liberal voices espousing liberal points of view, the likelihood of them voting Republican diminishes greatly.

We should all consider how social media works and its influence on our views. Because it can target us individually in a way traditional media cannot, it may have the power to shift perceptions without us realizing it. Unless ordinary citizens come to understand conservative censorship and how it works, tech company executives and their private agendas will continue to shape our democratic process.

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