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W polityce TT: How Twitter shapes the political discourse in Poland

Twitter is a popular social media platform that allows users to share short messages, called tweets, with their followers and the public. Twitter has become a powerful tool for political communication, as it enables politicians, journalists, activists, and citizens to express their opinions, share information, and engage in debates. However, Twitter also poses some challenges and risks for the quality and integrity of the political discourse in Poland.

The benefits of Twitter for political communication

Twitter offers several advantages for political communication in Poland. First, it allows politicians to reach a large and diverse audience, both nationally and internationally. Politicians can use Twitter to communicate their agendas, policies, achievements, and criticisms of their opponents. They can also use Twitter to interact with their supporters, respond to questions, and mobilize voters. For example, the leader of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, Jarosław Kaczyński, has over 1.2 million followers on Twitter, while the leader of the opposition Civic Platform (PO) party, Donald Tusk, has over 2.6 million followers.

Second, Twitter enables journalists to report on political events and issues in real time. Journalists can use Twitter to share breaking news, provide analysis, and offer commentary on political developments. They can also use Twitter to monitor public opinion, conduct polls, and solicit feedback from their readers. For example, the online news portal wPolityce.pl has over 300 thousand followers on Twitter, where it posts the latest news and opinions on politics and society.

Third, Twitter empowers activists and citizens to participate in the political process and voice their concerns. Activists can use Twitter to organize protests, campaigns, and movements for various causes. They can also use Twitter to raise awareness, spread information, and challenge misinformation. Citizens can use Twitter to follow political actors, access diverse sources of information, and express their views on political matters. They can also use Twitter to engage in discussions and debates with other users who share or oppose their opinions.

The challenges and risks of Twitter for political communication

Twitter also poses some challenges and risks for the political discourse in Poland. First, Twitter can amplify polarization and conflict among different political groups. Twitter tends to create echo chambers, where users are exposed to information that confirms their existing beliefs and biases. Users can also encounter trolls, bots, and extremists who use Twitter to spread hate speech, harassment, and propaganda. These factors can increase hostility, intolerance, and mistrust among users who have different political views. For example, during the 2020 presidential election campaign in Poland, Twitter was flooded with insults, accusations, and fake news from both sides of the political spectrum.

Second, Twitter can undermine the credibility and accountability of political actors. Twitter allows politicians to bypass traditional media outlets and communicate directly with the public. However, this also means that politicians can avoid journalistic scrutiny and fact-checking. Politicians can use Twitter to make false or misleading claims, manipulate emotions, and appeal to populism. They can also use Twitter to evade responsibility and blame others for their failures or mistakes. For example, in 2019, the former justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro tweeted that he had filed a complaint against Germany for violating the rule of law in Poland. However, this turned out to be a hoax that Ziobro later deleted.

Third, Twitter can distort the representation and participation of the public in politics. Twitter is not a representative sample of the Polish population, as it is skewed towards younger, urban, educated, and affluent users. Moreover, not all users are equally active or influential on Twitter. Some users have more followers, retweets, likes, and replies than others. These users tend to dominate the political discourse on Twitter and shape the public opinion. However, these users may not reflect the diversity or complexity of the public opinion in Poland.

Conclusion

Twitter is a double-edged sword for political communication in Poland. On one hand, it offers opportunities for politicians, journalists, activists, and citizens to communicate, inform, and engage in politics. On the other hand, it also creates challenges and risks for the quality and integrity of the political discourse in Poland. Twitter can enhance or damage the democracy, pluralism, and civility of the Polish society. Therefore, Twitter users should be aware of the benefits and drawbacks of this platform, and use it responsibly, critically, and respectfully.

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