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Social media engagement increases government action, reduces pollution: study

Citizen engagement through social media significantly improves government response and decreases water and air pollution, a new study has found.

Using China as a testbed, an international team of researchers said they asked citizen volunteers to send both public and private messages calling for action over industrial plant violations.

Public calls to action — sent via the Twitter-like social media site Weibo — reduced violations by more than 60 percent, according to the study, published Thursday by the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute.

Such calls reduced air and water pollution by 12.2 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively, the researchers found.

“We found that social media is the new ‘public street’, driving change in much the same way as a protest or march, and the more popular the social posts are, the more effective they are at generating action from government study co-author Michael Greenstone, director of the Energy Policy Institute, said in a statement.

“More specifically, it shows that providing information to the public about individual polluters’ emissions can lead to a reduction in pollution,” Greenstone added.

As the visibility of social media posts increased through “likes” and “shares” — increasing the semblance of public support — government agencies were 40 percent more likely to respond and 65 percent more likely to endorse the plants. issue, the investigation said.

While private appeals — sent through a government hotline or online messaging platform — also led to improvements, they do so to a lesser extent, the researchers noted.

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“Our research found that social media can be a very effective and convenient tool for engaging citizens in the government process and holding regulators accountable,” Shaoda Wang, deputy faculty director of the Energy Policy Institute’s China branch, said in a statement. .

“The fact that the more popular social posts have led to more action from government officials is not surprising, but it confirms that there are many opportunities for citizens to participate in governance and help improve government accountability,” he added. Cheers to it.



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