Undergraduate Honors Thesis


From Democratic To #Problematic: The impact of social media on democracy around the world Public Deposited

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  • In the last 15 years, the function of social media has turned from more than just an online network of friends into a political apparatus. The reach and magnitude of social media platforms has rapidly broadened through campaigns, news media, political movements, and governments. Social media platforms help facilitate the creation of groups with extreme political ideologies, including alt-right and far left communities. The polarization of social media users combined with the omnipresent spread of false information threatens to undermine democratic political systems that are dependent on citizen’s being able to access truthful information for personal decision making. Social media itself is neither for democracy, nor against it, but rather a tool that all sides can utilize for a variety of goals, liberal and illiberal. The goal of this thesis is to address how is social media used as a tool to foster democratic progression and a weapon that denigrates democracy and the institutional pillars supporting it? In order to better understand the effects of social media on democratic institutions, this thesis examines four case studies on who controls, consumes, and circulates social media in countries of various regime types around the world. Comparing social media use in different regimes gives insight into which actors use social media, and for what means, and allows for comparative analysis to better understand the role social media plays within different forms of government. The case studies include the examination of Iran, the United States, China, and Hungary— four countries of diversified government types and varying relationships with democracy. Ultimately, this thesis finds evidence in support of: 1. Social media can be very beneficial for civilians of autocratic nations protesting for democracy as it facilitates citizen activism and provides an outlet for political conversation and organization. 2. Autocratic nations and autocratic leaders of democratic nations can weaponize social media to fit their agenda and squander political protest. 3. Democratic nations will lose democratic institutions if no meaningful adaptations are made in regards to social media. 4. The use of social media around the world causes net harm to democracy. 

Date Awarded
  • 2023-04-10
Academic Affiliation
Committee Member
Granting Institution
Last Modified
  • 2023-04-21
  • China
  • Hungary
  • Iran
  • United States
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