in: Anita Breuer / Yanina Welp (eds.), Digital technologies for democratic governance in Latin America: opportunities and risks, Abingdon: Routledge, 165-182
Communication via the Internet and online social networking sites (SNS) has come to form an inherent part of most political campaigns today. Yet the potential of online activism to bring about political change is debated. While its advocates insist on its positive contribution to participatory democracy, critics dismiss it as a “slacktivist” activity that carries little societal benefit. Our analysis of the Brazilian anti-corruption campaign Ficha Limpa, which was primarily promoted through social media channels, picks up on this debate. After discussing the campaign’s impact on the macro- and meso-level of the Brazilian political system, we proceed to analyze its impact
on the micro level of individual participation using original survey data concerning citizens’ online and offline behaviour in the context of this campaign. We find that the low-effort online activities typically offered by entertainment orientated SNS contribute little to increase political participation. In turn, targeted campaigning by e-advocacy groups has the potential to increase the political engagement of individuals with low levels of political interest and can help to produce the switch from online to offline participation among individuals with high levels of political interest.