The specificities of political communication on the Internet

The advent of the internet and its use in politics has stirred the political scene between technophiles  and  technophobes . The first, like Albert Gore or Pierre Levy, associate the development of the Internet with the advent of a renewed democracy, more active and participatory, even direct, which would reconnect with the authentic agora. Skeptics, such as Paul Virillio or Oscar Gandy, insist more on the negative consequences that the Internet would have on our ability to inform ourselves and to think rationally about the world or on the threats that the Internet, like a Big Brother, would pose to people. individual freedoms [1].

The importance of the political Web is obvious, for Stefano Rodota, “ The notion of electronic democracy generally underlies three repercussions on citizen life: rapid access to a mass of information, participation favored by new techniques and action. more direct deliberative  ”[2]. These repercussions can form a basis for judging the degree of e-democracy of political parties.

According to Vedel, the Internet presents a multitude of political potentialities, he enumerated, in his article ” Internet and political practices  [3] “, four:

  • Better information for citizens  : for the author, the Internet is the pledge of a democratic ideal, because it allows free access to information and guarantees greater transparency in public action.
    Compared to the existing media, the Internet has four main advantages:

– The possibility of personalized research built according to the questions or the situation of each individual.

– The diversification of information resources.

– Reducing the costs of information dissemination and storage.

– Direct access to primary information.

  • Stimulation of political debate  : The Internet can stimulate political debate through discussion forums, messaging, newsletters, social networks, etc.
    The Internet as an open and accessible space for everyone, makes it possible to stimulate debates at different levels: Local, regional, national and international;
  • Easier political mobilizations  : Internet facilitates collective regrouping at a very low cost and by extending these collective actions on a large scale.
  • Closer relations between the governed and the governed  : The Internet is likely to foster greater interaction between the governed and the governed. By being the support for a great transparency of public action. By allowing wider access to information and public data and, finally, by constituting the tool par excellence by which elected officials and rulers can better understand the demands and points of view of citizens.

For Youssef Ennahi [4], the Internet brings proximity between the ruler and the ruled, because citizens can easily and directly come into contact with the ruled and openly ask questions and present the problems without needing an intermediary.

The Internet also allows candidates who conduct election campaigns on the web to innovate campaign media: posters can be interactive, they can change over time, audio and video documents can be viewed at any time and no anywhere. Finally, written documents can collect the opinions and comments of Internet users.

In addition, the Internet allows rulers or candidates to conduct viral campaigns on the web and reach a greater number of citizens in a minimum of time.

For Ennahi, the Internet is a real tool for political marketing and political communication since it is characterized by:

  • Accessibility  : Anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can access political sites.
  • Responsiveness  : The information put online can travel around the world in one day, be commented on, confirmed or denied by a large number of Internet users.
  • Interactivity  : The Internet connects people who would never have met without their online presence. On the network, the activists of a party and the supporters of a candidate can discuss, exchange, without necessarily being physically in the same place.

However, the use of NICTs will not fail to generate problems. For Vedel [5], these problems can be summed up, essentially, in four points:

  • The existence of a digital divide  : Digital democracy will be doomed to failure if all citizens do not have access to the Internet.
    This digital divide is caused by the lack of financial resources to acquire a computer and bear the costs of Internet access. Lack of learning and / or specific skills to connect to the Internet. And finally, the censorship imposed by some countries to hinder the dissemination of the means of communication that they perceive harmful for the government.
  • Apolitism or lack of interest in politics  : Electronic democracy is based on a very demanding conception of citizenship. Thus, a good citizen is one who actively and regularly participates, directly or indirectly, in political life. Admittedly, apoliticalism and lack of interest in politics has been on the rise for decades. And a large fringe of citizens will not be interested in this form of democracy. In addition, work in cognitive socio-psychology emphasizes that citizens are rather lazy political animals who strive not to seek more information, but to implement processes to filter, reduce and manage the overwhelming information they receive.
  • The annihilation of political mediation  : The advent of electronic democracy considers the annihilation of political mediation. This role played by the political parties, the media and the trade unions will be seen without importance, even, useless, because these bodies parasitize the communication between one and the other and would distort according to their own interests the expression of the citizens.
    However, by criticizing intermediary bodies, the discourse on electronic democracy overlooks several important questions linked to the functions of mediation, for example: the function of aggregating particular interests into collective demands. The presentation of frames of reference and interpretation that reduce the complexity of the information that citizens have to process. And finally, the selection and training of rulers.
  • Establishment of an electronic surveillance system  : the Internet, even if it guarantees a certain information transparency, it can at the same time be a disinformation tool since the State always controls the source of the information and complicates its mode of operation to darken the political scene. In addition, the Internet can be, in ricochet, a tool of espionage by which the citizens would become transparent to the governments and would give birth to a society of surveillance. 

[1] Vedel Thierry,  Political communication: State of knowledge, issues and perspectives,  Dir. Gingras Anne-Marie, PUF Edition, page 191.

[2] Redot Stefano,  Electronic democracy. New concepts and political experiences,  Edition Apogée, Rennes, 1999, page 87

[3] Vedel Thierry,  Political communication: State of knowledge, issues and perspectives,  Dir. Gingras Anne-Marie, Edition PUF, pp 192- 195

[4] Ennahi Youssef,  Political Marketing in Morocco,  Edition Remald, 2011, pp208-224

[5] Vedel Thierry,  Political communication: State of knowledge, issues and perspectives,  Dir. Gingras Anne-Marie, Edition PUF, pp 207-213 

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and International Relations in addition to a Master's degree in International Security Studies. Alongside this, I have a passion for web development. During my studies, I acquired a strong understanding of fundamental political concepts and theories in international relations, security studies, and strategic studies.

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