Amber Sinha, "The Networked Public: How Social Media is Changing Democracy" (Rupa Publications, 2019)

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Amber Sinha works at the intersection law, technology and society, and studies the impact of digital technologies on socio-political processes and structures. His research aims to further the discourse on regulatory practices around internet, technology, and society. He is currently a Senior Fellow-Trustworthy AI at Mozilla Foundation studying models for algorithmic transparency.

Networks, whether in the form of Facebook and Twitter or WhatsApp groups, are exerting immense, unchecked power in subverting political discourse and polarizing the public in India. If people’s understandings of their political reality can be so easily manipulated through misinformation, then what role can they play in fostering deliberative democracies? Amber Sinha asks this much ignored and often-misunderstood question in his book The Networked Public: How Social Media is Changing Democracy (Rupa Publications, 2019). In search for an answer, he investigates the history of misinformation and the biases that make the public susceptible to it, how digital platforms and their governance impacts the public’s behaviour on them, as well as the changing face of political targeting in this data-driven world.

The book weaves sharp analysis with academic rigour to show that while the public can be irrational and gullible, their actions—be it mob violence or spreading fake news—are symptoms of deeper social malaise and products of their technological contexts.The Networked Public is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how social media and the Internet is transforming democracy not only in India, but across the world.

Alok Prasanna Kumar is Co-Founder and Lead, Vidhi Karnataka. Sarayu Natarajan is the Founder of Aapti Institute. In the past, she has worked in management consulting and the venture fund industry before the plunge into researching politics.

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