Some of these favourable characteristics are:
a) Anonymity: A key factor that inhibits many people from exposing Corruption is the fear of retaliation. and how it will affect their day to day life. Social Media provides people with different shades of anonymity to suit individual comfort so that they can voice their opinions freely. Online anonymity could vary from simply being a name without face to the much more elaborate open web proxy servers used by the Iranian protesters.
b) Aggregation: This is a powerful tool available on Social Media that can be used to consolidate what is ‘common knowledge’ about Corruption. Consolidation gives information the credibility that it otherwise lacks and makes it difficult to ignore [recall: Obituary to Corruption]. @Gauravonomics refers to it as ‘Collective Intelligence’ in his The 4Cs Social Media Framework. Most common example of aggregation is Wikipedia, written by faceless multitudes, which is now widely used as reference material for a variety of topics.
c) Interactivity: Public discourse has always been led by the vociferous few. The silent majority simply endures and is unable to register its dissent. Social media gives voice to the silent majority and allows them to participate in a discussion rather than just be passive observers. ‘Like’,’Dislike’, ‘Share’, ‘Re Tweet’, ‘Bookmark’, ‘Comment’, ‘Poll Vote’ are all instruments that can drive a new interactive and participative democracy. Those with more followers, fans, readers, subscribers will act as moderators in this interactive discussion.
d) Instantaneity: With growing use of Social Media on mobile, the ‘instantaneous’ factor can also be exploited to fight Corruption. Twitter has already stolen a march in this direction and there is a lot that can be done using such tools. [more on this in a separate post]
e) Viral: The viral nature of the medium makes it easier to spread the message – a task which is other wise beyond the reach of individuals or smaller groups in the physical world.
Despite all these positives, many of the historical negatives of Social Media still remain. Social Media evolved from Social Networking which came into existence essentially as a ‘virtual hanging out’ place for the young. So there is still a preponderance of entertainment, sex, humour, and the risqué on Social Media. In such an environment it is often difficult to find an audience for anything serious and substantive. [Refer to this Facebook page with 400K+ Fans as compared to our own Corruption Free India page languishing with just 1.3K Fans] Anonymity too lends itself to spam and fraud where people assume fake identities and resort to spamming. Many people still consider Social Media to be just a ‘storm in the tea cup’ and doubt whether it can ever drive a change in the real life. However things are bound to change. Even a virtual congregation does consist of real people (leaving aside ‘bots’) and a digital record is still a public record. There may be an impression that no one is listening, yet whenever something significant is said, it finds the audience as if from thin air. With all its imperfections, Social Media is still going to be the medium of choice for fighting Corruption because of the reasons enumerated earlier. With its growing clout evidenced by the rush of celebrities joining Social Media, exit of a Central Minister over charges leveled in Social Media and the growing use of Social Media to check ‘Social Reputation’ before hiring or even marrying, all point to the fact that time is now ripe for a greater use of Social Media in fighting Corruption.