Disciplining social media: An analysis of social media policies in 26 Swedish municipalities

Mathias Klang, Jan Nolin


Social media can be seen as a resource for increased interaction between municipal authorities and citizens. However, as authorities attempt usage of social media, practices can become entrenched in traditional regulatory frameworks that emphasize openness and transparency rather than interaction with citizens. Social media usage by authorities tends to touch upon a broad range of regulatory elements, some of which are legal in character and others that we see as embedded in the technologies themselves as well as practices developed in connection with the technologies. In this paper, 26 Swedish social media policies produced by municipalities are analyzed in order to better understand how the conflict between transparency and interaction is dealt with in practical guidelines. We are concerned with how the diversity of social media is understood and how public functions are identified. By analyzing challenges and policy strategies outlined in these documents, it becomes possible to identify four alternative foundational positions based on social media being perceived as a problem/possibility or homogeneous/heterogeneous. The general tendency in all material is that routines of command and control are established in order to create clear goals and practices for individual social media activities and thereafter to discipline social media activities to remain firmly within the intentions of the blueprint. This explicitly disallows activities to adapt to needs developing through interaction with citizens. Nevertheless, we have also found a number of participatory strategies that are either aimed at increased quality of community services or at extending the marketability of the municipal brand.


social media; regulation; policy; municipalities; affordances; social media policies

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v16i8.3490

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