The communication system of the industrial society was based on mass media, largely television, radio and the print press. Such technologies allow for the mass distribution of a one-way message from one-to-many. New forms of social media, such as SMS, blogs, social networking sites, podcasts and wikis, cater to the flow of messages from many-to-many. They have provided alternative mediums for citizen communication and participatory journalism. Social media has been used as a tool to support development outcomes and to push for social change and transformation. Despite the growth of information and communication technologies in the developing world, in particular mobile phones, some technologies may not be accessible to marginalized groups, which can reinforce inequalities in society. Further, there has been little comprehensive research or rigorous evaluation of the causal influence of social media. As such, its ability to contribute to development outcomes and social change remains contested. While recent discussion on the political impact of social media has centered on the power of mass protests to topple governments, social media's real potential may lie in supporting civil society and the public sphere. It has enabled citizen groups to mobilize and hold governments and politicians accountable as never before, expanding public participation in democratic processes. Social media, in particular, can reconnect citizens with their democratic institutions, whether parliaments or political parties, in new and dynamic ways. On the other hand, fragmented web-based decision-making is not necessarily suited to complex policy-making, the committee points out. Replacing representative democracy with some form of “direct democracy” via Internet voting would bring the risk that small groups with greater resources could dictate final decisions without being known or required to account for them, wielding illegitimate power. The web can also facilitate abuse: it hosts intolerance and hatred, allows organized crime syndicates, terrorists and dictators to flourish, and enables the insidious monitoring of private life, not least – as recently revealed – unacceptable intrusion by State secret services. The Internet belongs to everyone, and ways must be found to preserve its openness and neutrality while preventing it from becoming a gigantic prying mechanism, beyond all democratic control. Web-users and operators must be encouraged to regulate themselves, while parliaments should lead the way in ending the digital divide and setting new norms in areas such as “semantic polling”, data-gathering, evaluating search algorithms and curbing Internet trolling. The ultimate aim will be to be find a model of Internet governance which ensures web freedom and guarantees online safety while respecting human rights, especially in countries where these are most under threat. To this end, the committee proposes that the Council of Europe begins work on a White Paper on “Democracy, politics and the Internet”. Policy webs are Internet-enabled networks of participants that contribute a broad range of skills, experiences, perspectives and resources to constitute an effective policy-making unit. Depending on the issue, policy webs draw participants widely from governments, international organizations, businesses and industry associations, think tanks, academic institutions, civil society organizations such as NGOs, associations, and religious groups, and the general public. The challenge is to move from static top-down models to agile networks that leverage and harness the capacity of a broader, more representative group.
http://anthonydwilliams.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/08/Digital%20Era%20Policy%20Making.pdf http://assembly.coe.int/ASP/Doc/XrefViewPDF.asp?FileID=20329&Language http://www.gsdrc.org/go/topic-guides/communication-and-governance/social-media