Flat White

Social media doesn’t equal votes

4 June 2019

3:31 PM

4 June 2019

3:31 PM

The impact of social media on politics is a contentious topic. Some argue social media harms political discourse, journalism, and the public. The ACCC even discusses this in their preliminary report into digital platforms.

But, social media popularity did not translate into electoral success in the Australian election.

The ABC’s Hidden Campaign team found, before the election, the candidates with the most social media interactions were Fraser Anning and Pauline Hanson.

But Anning has lost his Senate seat. And, although One Nation has increased its share of the vote, the best they can hope for is one Senate seat. Their popularity on social media has not translated into success at the ballot box. There are several reasons for this.

Firstly, those who are interacting with politicians on social media may not even be voters. They could be overseas, non-citizens, or otherwise ineligible to vote.
But most importantly, politicians’ social media accounts provide the public with an insight into who they are and what they believe. And after seeing what Anning was about, the Australian public said … no thank you.

This is free speech and democracy in action. We do not need to censor unpalatable, or even downright disgusting views online. We put all these ideas out in the open so that we can make an informed decision.

Anning’s Facebook posts attracted derision and disgust from the majority of Australians.

There are certainly negative aspects of social media. Misinformation and propaganda can be spread easily — but traditional media has also suffered this problem.  And, outrageous and offensive commentary often receives the most shares and comments, thus boosting the popularity of these posts.

Yes, some appalling things are said on social media. But Australians are mostly savvy enough to leave those things festering in the virtual world cyberspace, and not bring them into real life.

Monica Wilkie is a policy analyst at the Centre for Independent Studies..

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