You are here

Online Media in the Italian Presidential Election

The second speaker in this ASMC14 session is Edoardo Novelli, whose interest is in the online activities around the recent election of the Italian President. While the President was elected by members of parliament, a great deal of alternative direct democracy activities took place online, driven especially by the Cinque Stelle movement of Beppe Grillo.

Edoardo conducted an analysis of social as well as mainstream media activities around the election, gathering data from newspapers and television, Internet and social media. During the election, the Net was used by various actors for official and unofficial forms of communication. This caused a change in the traditional flows of information and diffusion across a hybrid news system, impacted on traditional political communication practices, and allowed for the emergence of grassroots voices.

Largely, the Net has been used by parties and politicians for official and political communications. Cinque Stelle ran an online poll of its members as an alternative election to that of the President; important political meetings were broadcast live, and thereby turned into performances; Twitter was used very widely to convene demonstrations; social media were used to comment on events during the election process; political leaders were taking directly to social media to bypass conventional communication channels; party Websites and politican blogs also played a role.

All of this broke traditions and unwritten rules in Italian politics, strengthening direct relationships between politicians and the public while weakening the power of party organisations. News and TV also used online media as channels for information gathering as well as news dissemination, including information from non-elite actors; this opened the gates between old and new media.

Consequences of this were a greater public involvement, and greater circulation and speed of information. There was also a connection between online and offline events, and offline demonstrations prominently displayed related hashtags as political symbols.

Other tools used included email bombings, the creation of dedicated Facebook protest pages, online petitions, and even hacker attacks and other forms of Internet sabotage. So, the Net was used for discussion, protest, lobbying, voting, and feeding content to the mainstream media. Internet used marked profound changes in the mechanisms of political participation and information. This was amplified by the mainstream media, leading to a hybridisation of political processes. This was driven by pressure from below, and the outcome of the election was decisively influenced by online and social media.