The Political Effects of Social Media Platforms on Different Regime Types (Summer 2021)
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American social media platforms can affect the political systems of different states in varying ways. The effect varies both between and within democratic and authoritarian states and depends mainly on three political actors: domestic opposition, external forces, and the governing regime. Depending on how these three actors use social media, as well as on a state capacity and political regime type, there are four different effects that social media can have: It can have a weakening effect on strong democratic regimes, an intensifying effect on strong authoritarian regimes, a radicalizing effect on weak democratic regimes, and a destabilizing effect on weak authoritarian regimes. There are a number of possible approaches U.S. policymakers can take to decrease the effects of social media platforms and to guarantee citizens the right to freedom of opinion based on reliable, pluralistic, and objectively sourced information.