The Power and Influence of the Internet on Political Views

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The internet; its our “go-to” for information, communication and more. But maybe its not all good. The internet plays a huge role in our lives, its a powerful force in the world, but is it becoming too powerful?

Anything posted online has the power to influence someone who sees it. Many parents put child locks and safety filters on their children’s devices because when everyone has the power to say and post whatever they please, it can negatively influence young children. An adult who posts a sarcastic or joking video suggesting people do something dangerous may not intend to cause any harm, but a child who sees this post may not understand the sarcasm, or decide to do it anyways, as a way of taking the joke a step further. This is how so many kids today are influenced to do stupid and even dangerous challenges, as a way to gain attention online and keep the joke going. The email chain messages of a decade ago are still around, but now they are taken seriously.

The “Momo texts” terrified parents and even made the news, with people claiming a chain message was going around telling kids to commit suicide. These texts never actually existed, nor did they cause the harm people claimed. Their existence was a Facebook hoax, and it shows just how easily a joke can spread throughout the internet and create mass panic. Even when none of the information spreading holds any truth.

The Atlantic Feb 2019

The "Momo"/"Mother Bird" sculpture of a face with bulging eyes and a wide, threatening grin

Have you ever posted a complaint or compliment regarding politics on your social media? Well so have millions of other people and its becoming quite commonplace. Social media is an easily used and seen platform to express and discuss political views with people from all over the world. This seems like a good thing, being able to discuss your beliefs with both like-minded and differently opinioned persons all over the world, but the internet has a very powerful feature that is often misused. That feature is anonymity.

When people feel they are able to hide behind their screen and say what they please with no fear of real-life repercussions, they become much bolder in what they are willing to say, and this can cause problems. When people think no one will know that its them saying it, they are much more comfortable making hurtful, deceitful and even hateful statements. Many extremist online groups have scores of anonymous members, but you’d be hard pressed to find many with their real name and picture on that profile. This is the power that being anonymous gives. People will post racist, violent or violence inciting and inflammatory things that you would never find on their Facebook account, because even though they know most people would be disgusted with what they think, the internet makes it easy to find other people who believe the same, and never have to show your face while doing so.

But anonymity cant be sustained forever, to the apparent disbelief of some. An anonymous poster can be tracked and found, and if someone else commits an act of violence based on their statements or suggestions, they will be. There is no hiding from the consequences of those actions, but when it does not directly cause physical or emotional damage, people face no consequences for extremist views spread online. These views often contain misinformation and opinion that is presented as fact, and some people believe these at face-value, and don’t research or look for sources. This is a huge issue in today’s society. The plague of “Fake News” mainly on Facebook has caused many radical and extreme beliefs to spread as these fake articles are treated not only as fact, but as support for the radicals beliefs, regardless of the fact that the stories in these articles never happened.


Another time internet politics  has gone too far was “Pizzagate”. When Hilary Clintons campaign managers email was made public, people claimed that his emails contained coded references to a human trafficking ring, saying that he, and the Clintons, were operating a child-sex ring. This rumor was spread through social media platforms quickly, and those who opposed Hilary Clinton latched on to the rumor and helped it spread even faster. It caused public uproar, unfounded accusations of a monsterous crime and even crime, as a man from North Carolina went to one of the resteraunts accused of being a cover up to the alleged child-sex trafficking ring. When he went there to make the accusation that the Comet Ping Pong restaurant was a cover-up he ended up firing a rifle in the restaurant. These same places also faced death threats from people who believed, without evidence, that there was a sex-ring. The man who started and perpetuated this rumor was a white supremacist posing as a lawyer on twitter. Once the rumor that this was being investigated started, it quickly grew out of control. A conservative daily news site even wrote that the FBI had confirmed the investigation, causing a massive response from the public. The accusations claimed that words like ‘cheese pizza’ stood for ‘child pornography’ since the initials were the same, and also said that they were part of a satanic cult, among other fairly ridiculous accusations. Peoples overreaction to this theory caused the employees and owners, and their family and friends to be harassed online an even went so far as to harass musicians who had played there. The entire conspiracy was debunked numerous times and people faced criminal charges due to the violence and threats of violence over the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. This is a perfect example of both the influence of the internet and the power of anonymity. The people who started this rumor and the people who sent death threats both thought they wouldn’t be caught, but they were.

Clearly the internet holds an amazing amount of power over what people think, say and even do. But this is clearly becoming a danger to society, as people are attacking others verbally and even physically over things read online. There doesn’t seem to be much we can do to stop people from postingthese things, but we can make a small change for ourselves by researching things we see online before we believe it without checking the claims that are made.