Can Social Media Change The Political Process in France?
Social media has emerged in France as the most popular means of communication. It is perceived to be cheap, easy to use, and widely available, which is exactly what users need. It emerged due to the advancements in the IT field, which led to creation and active development of various websites, such as YouTube, twitter, and Facebook. These social networking sites (SNSs) have become vital in influencing the political process in France (Daniel, 2017). Effective use of social media in politics makes the audience engage in the sharing and dissemination of information on the political events through such sites as Facebook, twitter, YouTube, Instagram, etc. Facebook is the most popular social media platform used in France (Lacroix, 2012). The widespread use of SNSs gives social media an opportunity to change the political process in France through the facilitation of engagement of electorate in fundamental national issues.
Unique Global Challenges and Opportunities Created by the Internet and New Media Technologies
The widespread use of SNSs has led to emergence of unique global challenges and opportunities that can significantly influence political processes. The French receive information on the political life in the country either as primary users or passive users, people who have already formed their mind about a particular political issue (Bossetta, Segesten, & Trenz, 2016). This has created a problem with how the French get and use the information on politics and how it affects their own routine interaction with the online political content.
The Internet and new technologies in France failed to predict the presidential elections of 2017. This is another challenge in the use of the Internet in political matters (Bevort, 2017). Moreover, it is evident that individuals of all ages can access the SNSs. Thus, it is highly probable that the opinion polls released on social media could have highly been contributed by the underage who cannot take part in the actual voting process. It was highlighted that some social media sites engaged in providing fake data by increasing the number of online audience at the expense of real audience that led to the use of robot accounts to make their favorite candidates appear to be leading in the online opinion polls (Bevort, 2017).
There are various opportunities that have been created by the Internet and new media technologies globally. First, it has provided room for citizens of various countries in the world to give their opinions on issues that affect them, such as economic crisis and the refugee problem. Thus, people can now meet in groups and air their opinions on the issues at hand while addressing their political leaders (Nadeau & Barlow, 2003). This sometimes can lead to subsequent adoption of political policies to address such challenges within the country, and France is no exception.
Second, the Internet and new technologies have created conditions where citizens at grass root levels are mobilized and educated on political rights and issues, which helps them comprehend the political situation (Daniel, 2017). Additionally, these technologies have created opportunities for citizens to increase their participation in political affairs in their countries. There is the ability to choose good and appropriate leaders based on the awareness and knowledge gained.
Facebook’s Influence on Political Affairs in France
Facebook is the most widespread SNSs platform in France because it has more followers than any other platform and gives immediate response. The French believe that Facebook can give them an immediate feedback when used in political matters. Apart from that, Facebook clearly displays people’s opinions, priorities and dislikes (Paquet, 2017). Besides, it determines the engagement of its audience through their participation in the political affairs. The clear example is the show of solidarity and emphasis on peace and peaceful transition through social media among French citizens during the elections (Mulholland, Samuel, Rothwell, Kirk, & Henderson, 2017). There was emphasis on restoring peace after the elections even in the face of divisions based on the support of opposing candidates. This evidently shows that social media has immensely participated in the change in the political process in France (Bossetta et al., 2016).
Facebook also has a tendency to self-select news. Facebook has an algorithm that automatically shows the political content that the French can engage in. The users have their own choice of selecting the political content they have interest in (Bossetta et al., 2016). This also presents them the opportunity to share the information widely while spreading information on the pertinent political issues (Matei, 2017). Others interested in the political events also have the opportunity to see and embrace the same ideologies. Overall, there is some extent of lobbying for or against particular political events through Facebook.
The Presidential Election and Social Media in France
The use of SNSs is widely spread in the political arena in France. The recent presidential elections is a clear evidence that social media can influence the political process in France. The presidential candidates, Le Pen and Macron, were forced to use SNSs to engage the citizens and win their favor through discussing different ideologies concerning their participation in the EU affairs (Senatori, 2017). The candidates had numerous Internet bloggers who even collected funds on the Internet to facilitate their political activities. The French were interested in knowing their future in the EU, and this meant that election of Le Pen would put an end to France being a member of EU. The French were able to keenly follow the candidates’ affairs on such social media as YouTube, twitter, Facebook, and instagram. Thus, the overall outcome of the elections was greatly dependent on the engagement of the electorate by the presidential candidates (Bossetta et al., 2016).
Active participation of the audience in political affairs determined results of elections in France. Targeting the social media with the majority of followers was instrumental in ensuring that the political ideologies were communicated to a larger part of the electorate by presidential candidates (Lacroix, 2012). Facebook was most actively utilized because of a big number of followers it had, and this was instrumental in predicting the chances the candidates stood to lead the country based on the comments by the electorate. Negative comments tended to show the level of rejection of the candidate, while positive comments reflected approval (Matei, 2017). Thus, such social media platforms as Facebook have been extremely reliable in providing a two-sided connection between the candidates and their electorate.
The Downside of Social Media in Influencing French Politics
The reliability of SNSs predicting the presidential elections in France was compromised, which had a negative impact on the French people who majorly depended on the results from the polling centers. This argument is proved by the fact that there were created many fake accounts to promote some candidates by creating false perception that they are in the leading position (Paquet, 2017). All platforms tended to be manipulated to generate fake opinions against candidates, hence blurring the exact picture of what candidates could achieve according to the real polls. This created a false perception of the superiority of one candidate over the other before the actual voting time.
More so, it is also clear that social media tends to be ineffective in some instances since it involves individuals of all ages, including those who are ineligible to participate in the voting process. This means that they could also participate in online polls and influence the predictions of a candidate’s success in the upcoming elections (Lacroix, 2012). There is no standard way to filter those people who are not supposed to take part in the elections, hence presenting an opportunity for false predictions in most instances (Curien, 2017). This means that social media has a negative impact on the political outcomes based on the wrong predictions of the outcomes in elections.
France is one of the countries where the power of social media in influencing the political process cannot be ignored. Notably, the presidential candidates, during recent elections, actively utilized social media, especially Facebook, to communicate their ideologies and agendas in terms of what they intend to deliver to the people once elected. Thus, both Macron and Le Pen utilized social media to explain what their course of actions would be with one of the fundamental issues being handling the issue with the European Union. This significantly influenced the electorate’s opinion, and more people voted for Macron based on his agenda concerning the EU. Overall, social media sites have set the pace for political involvement and contribution by ordinary citizens, hence ultimately influencing the choice of the electorate. The power of social media is likely to become even more pronounced in future French political processes with the continued evolution of the Internet technologies.