About a hundred years ago the invention of the telegraph not only facilitated long-distance communication but also did “a lot to clean up politics” as mentioned in the New York Times. It became more problematic for politicians to promise two different contradicting policies to two different groups of people, say, people from East and West. Nowadays, the internet is our great tool for communicating with one another. In fact, most people use the internet more than anything else. Social media became one of the main sources of information we get about daily life, and it also serves as a great platform for politicians to reach out to the people. Indeed, during the presidential campaigns, social media like Facebook are crammed with political advertisements. But the important question here is, how they choose which advertisements to show, is it based on the financial contribution of the candidates or their own preferences or both?
In The Economist article “Policing propaganda” it is suggested that lawmakers should regulate digital politics and not the tech bosses, I agree, and there are two reasons why. Ever since the establishment of the Constitution, citizens of the United States are granted unalienable rights, particularly the first ten amendments which protect and allow them to petition the government for a redress of grievances. With that being said, the government is the most liable for its citizens. When the corporations or tech giants, in this case, make political advertisements they are not concerned about whether their advertisement is biased nor how it may affect the readers. Furthermore, corporations and big companies may use political advertisements for their own benefit. In the Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the judiciary determined that corporations are also protected by the first amendment, thus giving them full right to finance political campaigns. Not only they have a greater influence on campaign outcomes, but they are less (compared to lawmakers) or not at all responsible for the ramifications on politics and democracy as a whole.
Moreover, as stated by Benjamin I. Page and Martin Gilens in “Democracy in America? : What Has Gone Wrong and What We Can Do about it.” unequal wealth distorts politics, the wealthy elites tend to rule while average citizens lose political power. This notion which is known as elite theory, clearly shows that wealthy people or interest groups that represent corporations have much more influence on campaigns and policies than normal people do. This implies that corporations will always contribute large investments to politics when needed, choosing the best candidate for their self-interest (lower taxes, less-expensive labor, lighter regulation etc.). The elite theory applies to politicians as well. Those who are wealthy, have more ways and means to be heard and seen. Since affluent and ordinary people have different preferences for policies, the candidate who belongs to the elite will usually support the former, which would further prevent common citizen to have a greater say in politics. The influence of the wealthy and their manipulations on the internet is implicit corruption which if not diminished could undermine democracy.
Although at first, it may sound like socialism but, by allowing lawmakers to regulate politics on the internet it would 1) prevent the company’s self-interested motivation influence advertisements which would decrease bias and 2) give all the candidates equal chance to appear on media. Furthermore, legislators are always under the scrutiny of the system of checks and balances, which yields a lesser tendency for acting solely for your own self-interests. And because lawmakers are a group of people from not necessarily the same socio-economic class, compared to tech bosses, they better represent the population (their preferences most likely to match those of citizens).
As a capitalist country, the money will more or less affect politics in the United States. Even though it is impossible to reach complete income and wealth equality which notably affects peoples influence on politics, there is a lot we can do to help people have louder voice in politics. Anything that could be done could have positive impacts. In this case, keeping political transparency (“ensuring that even narrowly targeted ads are available for anyone to examine”) on the internet and media by the regulation of lawmakers, we can protect the people from misleading information and biased news and advertisements. “The result will be a profusion of local laws for the tech firms to comply with. That will be a burden, but it is the price of success”.