Policy and Social Media

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Departments: Korean Consumer & Society

Social Media’s Impact on Policy Making

(Age) 20-24 25-29 30-34 35-39 40-49 50-59 60 and above

Source: National Election Commission (Aug 3, 2010). Press Release: “Analysis of Voting Rates in the 5th Nationwide Local Elections.”

October 2011 | SERI Quarterly | 125

Social Media’s Impact on Policy Making

has also become a potential solution for Korea’s government to improve operations and address numerous issues. According to the 2011 IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook, Korea ranked 22nd to 30th in performance indicators like “effective implementation” and “transparency” of government policy. Embracing social media can spur improvements in these areas by providing a fast and low cost way for governments to disseminate policy information, attain public feedback, and communicate with citizens. At the same time, social media comes with caveats for governments, as its open nature allows a single misstep to spread and multiply at rapid speed. This paper accordingly looks at social media’s impact on government policy making, and the likely government responses that can both leverage its advantages and minimize its uncertainties.

lar have made it increasingly important in today’s policy making arsenal. First, social media provides access to a broader range of opinions and issues than traditional media, and this access is nearly instantaneous. Micro-blogs like Twitter and Me2day and the increased uptake of sophisticated mobile devices allow anyone to publicly express their opinion by simply sending a brief message. Social media can also uncover issues that would be overlooked or ignored by more traditional means of gauging public opinion. Twitter users in Korea, for example, initiated a campaign to save a Korean underwater diving instructor who was falsely accused of murder in Honduras. In November 2010, as a result of the campaign the instructor was found innocent and acquitted. Second, social media has stronger connectivity between users. With social media, it is easier than ever to share breaking news, broach a social issue, and exchange opinions in real time to a massive audience. In fact, on average any two random Twitter users have only four degrees of separation between them. Social media’s ability to connect users has further grown with increasing interest and investment from existing

SocIal MedIa and changeS In The PolIcy envIronMenT characteristics of Social Media Three characteristics of social media in particu|Figure

2 Korean Government Competitiveness Vis-à-vis Top Ranking Countries Singapore Denmark Sweden

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 Adaptability of government policy Effective implementation of government policy Transparency of government policy 26th 22th 26th 30th Korea


Bribes and corruption

Source: International Institute for Management Development, 2011 IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook.

126 | www.seriquarterly.com



3 The Changing Communications Structure between the Government and the Public

Mass Media

Mass Media



media. The BBC, for example, now relies on social media to power its “User Generated Content Hub” to aggregate news from around the world. Third, social media has reduced online anonymity. As real life networks migrate to the online world, people now need to be ever more careful of what they say. Social media users accustomed to “anything-goes” Internet anonymity are now learning to express their opinions carefully and avoid posting content that they do not want to be held accountable for.

tures were retweeted among their young fans, increasing turnout among young voters significantly. Second, communication between the government and citizens has changed from indirect communication to direct contact. The speed in which public opinion develops today is now vastly greater than it was only a few years ago. Rather than depending on mass media to get policy...
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