Social media and politics: a tale of contraditions

In 2013, Twitter was pivotal in the dissemination of information during the Taksim Square Protests. As demonstrated by SMaPP research, protesters dissatisfied by the perceived lack of media covereage took to their phones, live-Tweeting and -streaming the events. These social media posts not only helped promote and organize the protests, they also became a major source of information for people around the globe. From Taksim to the Arab Spring to the Occupy movement, social media was viewed by many as a democratizing and liberating force, lowering the barrier for individuals to participate in politics and hold power to account.

Five years later, we live in different times. Social media's role in politics has become synonymous with campaigns of dissinformation and networks of hate speech. The heads of the our largest social media companies appear before Congress. Platforms are widely thought to reinforce hyperpartisanship. Some scholars now wonder whether democracy can survive the internet.

At SMaPP, we aim to take these theories to the data. Utilizing cutting-edge methodologies from political, computer, and data sciences, we are committed to the rigorous scientific study of how social media affects politics. The majority of our publications, papers, and reports fall into one of three research areas: how social media impact the political participation of ordinary citizens; how elites (and regimes) use social media; and how politically relevant information is produced and consumed on social media.