The following piece was written for Writing 2207 course at Western University. It was submitted in partial fulfillment of the final project. You are more than welcome to use the information provided here by correctly citing the source; however, you may not use or submit this for an assignment.
One should not be concerned about the true meaning of democracy, but rather how it is achieved and established. In terms of the dictionary definition, democracy is “the practice or principles of social equality” (Democracy). To understand social equality, one should recognize freedom as the basic fundamental principle of democracy. Brian Dickson, the fifteenth Chief Justice of Canada, states in the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd that a “truly free society is one which can accommodate a wide variety of beliefs, diversity of tastes and pursuits, customs and codes of conduct. A free society is one which aims at equality with respect to the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms” (Fundamental Freedoms).
The essential components of freedom include freedom of political thoughts, opinion, and expression; without these key elements, it is impossible to conceptualize democracy. The Web has influenced and changed human life in different aspects; a significant change is its impact on the establishment of democracy.
[a] truly free society is one which can accommodate a wide variety of beliefs, diversity of tastes and pursuits, customs and codes of conduct. A free society is one which aims at equality with respect to the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms
- Fundamental Freedoms
The internet not only gives the user a new method of observation and a chance to discover, analyze and examine a particular issue, but it can also be used as a valuable tool to connect individuals around the world, allowing them to take actions and to inform others in pursuit of democracy.
Access to accurate information
First of all, access to accurate information is crucial to the success of every society. The internet gives every individual the opportunity to access different materials on the Web freely. The ability to approach a broad range of virtual databases in various languages published by different governments, allows individuals to experience information with a different perspective. Some information may be biased by religion, others by ethnicity and political empowerment; however, the absence of law to specifically influence one’s decision when assessing this information creates an appreciative atmosphere.
Unlike the old standards of publications, the Web has extended the definition of free speech and is capable of publishing sensitive materials not achievable by any other forms of news writing. It has broken the boundaries set by government authorities. Politicians who control the media outlets by injecting a massive amount of money into news organizations are facing trouble controlling internet publications.
The content producers on the Web can be free of any financial resource from governments; they can be publicly funded - by people for people. Websites like WikiLeaks have created new forms of digital publications, a powerful voice heard by millions all around the world. According to WikiLeaks, it provides a forum for the entire global community to examine any documents relentlessly for credibility, plausibility, veracity and falsifiability.
Time, an American weekly magazine, says “[WikiLeaks] could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act” (Schmidt). To be able to make a legitimate decision, it is important for an individual to understand what is happening in the world. The internet presents the information from different sources, exposing users to different discussions and ideas so the user can investigate and carefully examine arguments.
Second of all, modern knowledge discovery is no longer about finding the right source; it is more about being able to challenge the source. Viewing sources from different perspectives improves the ability to make an appropriate choice regarding an issue. One of the fundamental principles of democracy is that individuals can freely challenge ideas based on facts and reasoning.
The Web gives every individual voice that can be expressed via different channels such as a blog, a wiki or a social network account. It creates a platform for political discussions and debates, leading to significant increase in the number of participants. It allows many-to-many communions: thousands of users who are familiar with the subject can respond from different countries with different viewpoints. When it comes to the internet, it is not about how much information is available to the user, but rather how the individual uses that information to his/her advantage. The internet provides the user with information, but it does not necessarily force them into critical thinking. The internet can lead individuals to the right path if it is used correctly. In contrast to the traditional media publication where receiving feedback and comments about topics is rare and almost impossible, the internet has changed the way people communicate about news, and how quickly a response can be generated regarding an ongoing issue.
For the printed media, there are “letters to the editor.” The Web made news a twenty-four hours response system. Almost every hour a new piece of information is released. Unlike on the internet, the traditional media coverage does not currently allow anonymous content submission. Moreover, readers have limited abilities to discover and analyze an issue since it has been biased in the first place. The internet has become the number one information retrieval source for those who seek the truth and are willing to impugn information and take it to the next level.
Connecting individuals around the world
Finally, the key role of citizens in a democracy is participation in decision making. The internet is a bridge linking single individuals to groups outside a regime, a government controlled by radical leaders, a company or an agency hiding secret information. It has no borders, allowing different people from different nations all around the world to take part for a cause they think can impact the society in a smaller scale and the world in the larger view.
The Web allows individuals to become part of a network of people participating in the decision making of their government. In an example, the Web played a significant role in Egyptian Revolution of 2011 where protesters demanded a change, and they successfully overthrow the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
The United States presidential election
The United States presidential election of 2008 is an example of how President Barack Obama’s social media advantages helped him to become the nation’s 44th president and defeat John McCain. In an article published by The New York Times, David Carr wrote “by bolting together social networking applications under the banner of a movement, they [Obama campaign] created an unforeseen force to raise money, organize locally, fight smear campaigns and get out the vote that helped them topple the Clinton machine and then John McCain and the Republicans” (Carr) to express how the internet can increase the user engagement. Nothing like the traditional campaign where a stable financial help is required to be able to function, the Web provides activists who are not financially supported by political groups a fundraising capability, space and the courage to create an online campaign.
In conclusion, freedom is an essential element for the establishment of democracy. The road to democracy is paved by having access to information without any limitations. The internet creates a transparency and has become the primary source of knowledge and information. It allows users to hold opinions freely, to analyze information, to publish and distribute information without any restrictions. The internet gives a different method of measurement for an individual to consume information and to influence the society for the establishment of democracy.
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