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Social media: does the ‘crowd in the cloud’ really speak for the majority?

Strasbourg, 29.11.2013 – PACE Vice-President Robert Walter (United Kingdom, EDG), in a speech on social media on the second day of the World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg, has warned that a vocal minority which claims a monopoly on public opinion can have a disproportionate sway over policy-making. “Does the ‘crowd in the cloud’ speak for the majority, or is this a new version of mob rule?” he asked.

“Utilising the latest technology to streamline engagement and strengthen transarency has an important part to play in restoring faith in politics. But […] digital politics will not, and should not, be a replacement for well-established principles of representative democracy.”

“Social media are a double-edged sword – on the one hand we are able to communicate quickly, freely and fluidly, we can engage in multiple conversations and spread messages with a few clicks of a mouse, all in 140 characters. The irony is, however, that the more debates Twitter facilitates, the less fruitful the quality of the output.”

"Social media were designed to communicate in punchy sound-bites. The result is that serious issues become pared-down talking points. As such, they are devoid of real substance, and cannot be relied upon to produce bold ideas.”