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Abstract

The availability and promise of social networking technologies with their perceived open philosophy has increasingly inspired citizens around the world to participate in political activity on the Web. Recent examples range from opposing public policies, such as government funding cuts, to organizing revolutionary social movements, such as those in the Middle East and North Africa. Although online spaces create remarkable opportunities for various forms of political action, there are concerns over the power of existing institutions to control and even censor such interaction spaces. The objective of this article is to draw together different insights on the online engagement phenomenon, highlighting both its potential and limitations as a mechanism for fostering democratic debate and influencing policy making. We examine recent examples from Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. Finally, we summarize the implications of our work and outline directions for further research.

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