Digital Democracy and Public Discourse: Dissonant, Disrupted and Unedited?

Published: Fall 2021    |    By: Dr. Ulrike Klinger   |   Volume 69, No. 26


Social media has become one of the primary sources of information, particularly for those under 45. However, social media platforms are designed and function in a way that proliferates disinformation, posing a threat to the vibrant and fact-based public discourse necessary for democracies to properly function. This report outlines how social media shapes our public discourse, the harms it can cause, and the ways in which we as individuals, civil society, and governments can address disinformation online. Particularly, Klinger emphasizes that professional journalism must be supported by civil society, governments must step in and regulate social networks, and she calls on everyone to be more vigilant and skeptical when engaging with online content.

About the Author

Dr. Ulrike Klinger is the professor for digital democracy at the European New School of Digital Studies at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder), Germany and an associated researcher at the Weizenbaum Institut for the Networked Society in Berlin. Currently, she is a visiting scholar at the Center for Information Technology and Society (CITS) at the University of California in Santa Barbara. Her research focuses on political and digital communication. After receiving her PhD on media pluralism in defective democracies (2010), Ulrike Klinger has worked extensively on the transformation of digital public spheres, the role of digital media in election campaigns, and the impact of technologies on public communication (e.g. algorithms, social bots).