The democratic Internet and extremism

Although Internet is supposedly ‘democratic’ but it has some drawbacks as well. People tend to be more extremist on the net than they are in real life. A radical hindutva dude who wants to destroy Pakistan on the net, in the real world, meekly stays away from the smallest of disputes! The major reason for this is the anonymity that the internet gives to them. They get power without responsibility, and can say whatever they want without the fear of consequences. Isn’t this the greatest drawback of democracy?

Even non-anonymous people tend to become extremists on the internet. This is mainly because of the group polarization effect, i.e., after participating in a group, people tend to behave in a more extremist way. People tend to form groups on the internet, participating in forums, joining websites validating their views. The confirmation bias kicks in, people shield themselves from any source of disagreement and hang around only with their own kind. This further airs their extremism.

Did you realize why twitter and facebook clicked and orkut didn’t? This is mainly because orkut is based on one-one communication model, whereas, twitter follows the one-many model. Everyone wants to be heard- and twitter gives people that feeling. But in turn, it also gives them power without responsibility. About 40% of tweets are of controversial and extremist in nature! Does that ring an alarm?

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One response to “The democratic Internet and extremism

  1. hey sourav! i think that the internet has this tendency to allow people with similar voices to band together, whereas they would have not found a way to do this earlier. overall, i think this is a great thing, without qualifications.

    the question to ask is why have these voices been marginalized earlier, and why are people resorting to extreme measures, rather than lamenting that they are using tools that allow great communications for pursuing extreme steps

    one last thing is that the internet is not ‘democratic’ it is ‘anarchic’ in that nobody actually has any control on what is said and done (beyond the telecom companies that control the actual fibers and data paths)

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