Minimal Effects, Maximum Panic: Social Media and Democracy in Latin America

Eugenia Mitchelstein*, Mora Matassi, Pablo J. Boczkowski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


In face of public discourses about the negative effects that social media might have on democracy in Latin America, this article provides a qualitative assessment of existing scholarship about the uses, actors, and effects of platforms for democratic life. Our findings suggest that, first, campaigning, collective action, and electronic government are the main political uses of platforms. Second, politicians and office holders, social movements, news producers, and citizens are the main actors who utilize them for political purposes. Third, there are two main positive effects of these platforms for the democratic process—enabling social engagement and information diffusion—and two main negative ones—the presence of disinformation, and the spread of extremism and hate speech. A common denominator across positive and negative effects is that platforms appear to have minimal effects that amplify pre-existing patterns rather than create them de novo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSocial Media and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2020


  • Latin America
  • fake news
  • minimal effects
  • political communication
  • social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Computer Science Applications


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