Elena Ziliotti et al.

Published On


Page Range

pp. 33–52


  • English

Print Length

20 pages

2. Social Media and Democracy

Has social media disrupted the concept of democracy? This complex question has become more pressing than ever as social media have become a ubiquitous part of democratic societies worldwide. This chapter discusses social media’s effects at three critical levels of democratic politics (personal relationships among democratic citizens, national politics, and international politics) and argues that social media pressures the conceptual limits of democracy. This new digital communication infrastructure challenges some of the fundamental elements of the concept of democracy. By giving citizens and non-citizens equal substantive access to online political debates that shape the political agenda, social media has drastically expanded and opened up the notion of demos and public sphere (the communicative space where citizens come together to form and exchange opinions and define collective problems), and misaligned the conceptual relationship of public sphere with the idea of demos. These conclusions have multiple implications. They indicate engineers’ and designers’ new political responsibility, novel normative challenges for research in political and moral philosophy, security and legal frameworks, and ultimately they shed light on how to do politics in digital democratic societies.


Elena Ziliotti

Assistant Professor of Ethics and Political Philosophy at Technische Universiteit Delft

Elena Ziliotti is an Assistant Professor of Ethics and Political Philosophy at TU Delft. Her research focuses on Western democratic theory and Comparative democratic theory, with a particular focus on contemporary Confucian political theory. ORCID: 0000-0002-8929-9728

Patricia D. Reyes Benavides

PhD candidate in Philosophy of Technology at University of Twente

Patricia D. Reyes Benavides is a PhD candidate in Philosophy of Technology at the University of Twente. Her research delves into the technopolitics of the global climate movement, in particular the appropriation of Internet platforms by climate activists. ORCID: 0009-0008-6867-864X

Arthur Gwagwa

PhD candidate, Ethics Institute at Utrecht University

Arthur Gwagwa is a PhD candidate at the Ethics Institute at Utrecht University. His research focuses on anti-domination approaches in new frontier technological and data relationships between the Global North and China on the one hand and the Global South on the other. ORCID: 0000-0001-9287-3025

Matthew J. Dennis

Assistant Professor in Ethics of Technology at Eindhoven University of Technology

Matthew J. Dennis is an Assistant Professor in Ethics of Technology at TU Eindhoven. His research investigates how technology can be designed to promote autonomy, fairness, and well-being. ORCID: 0000-0002-4212-6862