What exactly do social networks represent for democracy, this new agora where all points of view are expressed and confronted? A threat when false information spreads freely there, when facts and opinion are no longer distinguished? Or when the personal data of millions of users is sucked up, as was the case in 2014 by Cambridge Analytica, in particular to target and influence undecided voters (in favor of Donald Trump in 2016, the pro-Brexit camp, etc.) .
In addition to these real cases of manipulation and the vagueness surrounding the functioning of algorithms, Facebook, Twitter and the others are also new places of expression and mobilization. In 2011, they enabled the Arab Spring, helping protesters bypass state media in Egypt, Libya and Syria, before a return to authoritarian rule in all three countries. In October 2017, a few days after the Weinstein affair which shook Hollywood, the word of tens of thousands of women victims of sexual violence was released on Twitter, under the keyword #meetoo. In France, the movement of yellow vests was born and organized from November 2018 on thousands of Facebook groups, at a good distance from parties and unions.
We can see digital mobilization as a more direct and more flexible way of living democracy, of challenging one’s elected officials oneself, of asserting more personal opinions… But this way of expressing oneself, of doing politics outside the walls, is it not also the reflection of a certain individualism? On social media, engagements are highly emotional and ad hoc, with a premium left to aggressive messaging. The result is a succession of waves of indignation. For better and for worse.