Social Media Policies and the Foundations of Athenian Democracy

TwitterSocial MediaYouTubeMediaDemocracy as a Political System
The foundations of Athenian democracy include equality, harmony, debate, and general education, among others. Activities ask you to use these principles to evaluate how democratic are the community standards, online rules, and user policies found on today's social media platforms, and then write a social media policy for your class, school, or district that upholds the foundational features of democracy.

The foundational principles of Athenian democracy included freedom from tryanny, rule of law, equalitycitizen wisdom, harmonyactive debate, and general education (from the book First Democracy: The Challenge of an Ancient Idea. Paul Woodduff, 2005).

In the following activities, you will apply these principles to evaluating how democratic are the community standards, online rules, and user policies found on today's social media platforms

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Activity 1: Evaluate Social Media Community Guidelines

  1. Review the seven features of Athenian democracy to familiarize yourself with the key concepts.
  2. Choose one of the following social media platforms: YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, or Twitter.
  3. Open up the community standards for your chosen platform.
    1. YouTubeCommunity Guidelines
    2. FacebookCommunity Standards
    3. TikTokCommunity Guidelines
    4. Twitter (X.)Rules & Policies
      • Pro-tip: These guidelines tend to be long, so use the “find” function (CTRL + F on PC, CMD + F on Mac) to find specific words or phrases.
  4. In a video, podcast, or brief paper, answer the following questions related to how the community standards do or do not uphold the foundational features of democracy:
    1. Does the platform allow all users to post and comment equally, or does it ban certain types of content or actions from the platform? Do you agree with these bans?
    2. How does the platform encourage active dialogue and debate? Does this debate build harmony among users? (harmony means “accepting differences among people”)
    3. Does the platform support citizen wisdom and general education? 
    4. Are the guidelines easy to read or understand? If not, why do you think the standards are written in the way that they are? 
    5. From your own experience on the platform, how effective do you think these guidelines are in maintaining democratic principles and dialogue on the site?
  5. Bonus: Annotate the community standards using Hypothes.is to display your findings/thoughts. 

Designing for Learning: Student-Created Activity Example

Evaluate Social Media Guidelines by Nana Asamoah

Activity 2: Assessing, Revising, and Writing School Social Media Policies

Activity 3: Writing Social Media Posts That Align with Democratic Values

Additional Resources 

Connecting to the Standards

  • Massachusetts Civics & Government Standards
    • Explain why the Founders of the United States considered the government of ancient Athens to be the beginning of democracy and explain how the democratic concepts developed in ancient Greece influenced modern democracy (Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for History and Social Studies) [8.T1.1]
    • Explain the democratic political concepts developed in ancient Greece:  a) the "polis" or city state; b) civic participation and voting rights, c) legislative bodies, d) constitution writing, d) rule of law (Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for History and Social Studies) [7.T4.3]
  • ISTE Standards
    • Creative Communicator
      • 6b. Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
      • 6d. Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.
  • DLCS Standards
    • Safety and Security (CAS.a)
    • Interpersonal and Societal Impact (CAS.c)
    • Collaboration and Communication (DTC.b)
    • Research (DTC.c)
  • English Language Arts > History/Social Studies Common Core Standards
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.2
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.4
  • English/Language Arts Common Core Standards

This content is provided to you freely by Equity Press.

Access it online or download it at https://equitypress.org/mediaandciviclearning/democracyinSocialMedia.