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The role of Facebook in an election within an emerging democracy: A case study of the 2018 election in Bhutan

Choden, Deki (2019) The role of Facebook in an election within an emerging democracy: A case study of the 2018 election in Bhutan. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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Abstract

Since the emergence of the Internet and its widespread use around the globe, people have changed the way they communicate and the way they participate in politics. With a growing emphasis on social networking sites in election campaigns, previous studies have published varying conclusions on the effects of social media in political campaigns. However, there has been limited focus on the use of Facebook in particular as the largest social networking site, and how it facilitates political communication. Existing studies that focus on Facebook are Western centric, and some are carried using experiments and quantitative methods. This study was conducted using a case study research approach focusing on the use of Facebook in the 2018 election campaigns in Bhutan. Despite its short political and Internet history, nearly half of Bhutan’s population have Internet connection with majority of them on Facebook. Since the institution of democracy a decade ago, Bhutanese political parties and candidates have followed politicians in modern democracies by adopting social networking sites to campaign.

The case study approach used an integration of two qualitative methods of interviews and the analysis of Facebook wall posts. Results showed that the 2018 witnessed an Internet intensive campaign with significant use of Facebook by political parties and citizens for political discourse. Facebook Live streaming emerged as one of the effective strategies in reaching a maximum number of Facebook users, generating the highest number of reactions. Furthermore, the 2018 Bhutanese election campaign on Facebook saw the use of visuals and content related to campaign pledges and development issues to maximise Facebook interactions. Findings also revealed that parties and citizens used Facebook to exert agendas extending knowledge on how Facebook contributes to formation of public opinions. The use of fake accounts and malicious content to bring down opposing parties emerged as a major challenge affecting the pattern and quality of political discussions on Facebook.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation: Creative Media, Arts and Design
Supervisor(s): Archer, Catherine, Smyth, Chris and Lee, Terence
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/49830
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