Much Ado About Nothing? The Use of Social Media in the New Digital Agenda Committee of the German Bundestag


More technical opportunities and also more communicative and participatory options online could lead to more political interest in general, and to closer interrelations between citizens and politicians. From the point of view of democratic theory, it is highly relevant whether citizens are vividly participating in politics or not. In light of recent political events it seems even more important to evaluate the positive and negative potential of online communication and its implications for democracy. For political purposes, Twitter is especially frequently used by professionals in election campaigns; to report, comment on, and discuss political events; or to stimulate political online protest. The chapter analyses social media activities of the Bundestag’s new Digital Agenda Committee. We argue that by using social media (and in particular Twitter) to report on its activities, the DAC can increase transparency and interactivity between representatives and citizens. This could increase and strengthen citizens’, journalists’, and other actors’ interest in parliamentary business. We collected Twitter data in 2015 to determine quantitatively for each member of the DAC their number of followers, the number of tweets they posted or retweeted, and how many retweets and @mentions they received themselves. Qualitatively, we further explored what information MPs tweeted about the DAC’s work, and how they informed the public about parliamentary business and their individual activities. For the purposes of this chapter, we focus our attention on the top-down direction of communication (from politicians to citizens), rather than on bottom-up responses (from citizens to politicians).

Chapter in: Managing Democracy in the Digital Age: Internet Regulation, Social Media Use, and Online Civic Engagement (Springer Link)