Well, today was our last seminar. Its funny how time flew (it seemed like the beginning of the semester were only some weeks ago!). Before talking about today’s seminar, I would like to start by thanking my wonderful teachers and also my classmates. It is amazing how much I’ve learned with you guys, with such interesting discussions that broadened my perspectives on so many issues..
Today’s seminar was led by us (students)! We decided to focus on the Internet on the recent US election and also on the Internet in developing countries. For me, it was extremely interesting to read about the effect of the Internet on Donald Trump’s campaign. In Brazil, propaganda for elections are mostly made through television and radio stations, so I had never experienced any election in which the Internet was a huge factor. Donald Trump made great use of the Twitter social media. In simply 140 characters, he would make statements (without any further explanation), and post them on his account. This provoked many reactions from the public, as through his 140 character statements, Trump would not give any backup for what he was saying or explanation. A question that came up today was if Trump was really aware of how he was using Twitter in this “genius” manner. I personally believe that this was not intentional from the beginning, but as soon as he saw the repercussions his tweets had, he continued doing it and increased his tweets. I would also say this is also part of his “business” side, exploiting the Internet as a businessman.
We also talked about bots, which were extremely influential in these elections as well. These Twitter bots are (amazingly) able to become very popular, in such a way that the information they share (whether true or false) becomes very influential on election results. Although in these elections there were Pro-Trump and Anti-Hillary bots (among others), there are also “non-harmful” Twitter bots such as one that corrected people in the way they referred to Caitlyn Jenner. The problem with bots is: how to regulate them? Should we regulate them? How can we decide whether a bot is harmful or not? Should Twitter have to take any action to remove these bots? In my opinion, I believe the job of controlling and eliminating Twitter bots in a situation such as the elections should be under the responsibility of the FEC (Federal Elections Commission) rather than Twitter.
The last topic we discussed was Internet in developing countries – a topic I really relate to. The question I brought to the discussion was how can Internet and technology be increased in developing nations? The problem with developing nations is that most have unstable economies and governments, which cause foreign countries and possible investors to become skeptical about investing in a country with corruption scandals and monetary issues. Who, then, would invest to increase technology in these nations? The government in Brazil, for example, has a huge debt and cannot invest in technology. Could we count solely, therefore, with the effort of Non-Governmental Organisations? From personal experience, I believe that we cannot count only with NGO’s to solve these problems. Developing countries like Brazil are massive and relying on NGO’s to implement all of the technology necessary would be too much on these NGO’s.
One last remark I wanted to make is a comment regarding the future of elections. I was actually surprised by everything I learned about these US elections and the impact that the Internet and social media had on the results. This is a completely new reality for me, given that in Brazil the Internet is not very much used as a tool for election propaganda. But this got me thinking: what will our future elections be like? Will candidates take full advantage of the Internet (like Donald Trump with Twitter)? Will this end up bringing any huge consequences? Will this change the purpose of social media like Facebook and Twitter? I guess we’ll have to wait and see! 🙂