The literature suggests that social media has a lot of potential to be used for governance purposes, but that this is not capitalised on in most contexts. Many governments are using e-government strategies and disseminating information through online channels, but not soliciting citizen feedback. Where there are two-way channels, it is very unclear whether citizen feedback is acted upon. There is promising evidence on social media improving transparency of organisations and government ministries, but less evidence on whether this improves accountability. There is even less literature on social media used to monitor or report on corporate activities or other organisational governance. In general, there is a strong assumption in the literature that internet access and social media will improve transparency, accountability, and good governance, but little evidence on how this is achieved.
Social media has impacted on governance in the following ways:
- Political participation: governments have provided formal online channels for citizens to report crime, comment on policy, or petition for change. Largely this is restricted to a small elite of internet users, and government websites are not popular. Citizens often use social media to organise activism and protest.
- Transparency and accountability: citizens have used social media to communicate, report and map issues in society, which has increased pressure on governments to respond.
- Peacebuilding: social media have been used to monitor violence, which can support peacebuilding, although media can also be used to incite violence.
- Private sector: social media used by businesses can increase transparency and customer communication, as well as create new forms of leadership.
- Internal governance: new legislation and regulation of social media is controversial. Some online hate speech constitutes a crime, and some governments have shut down internet services in an attempt to control social media.