The Use and Management of Public Information in Social Media: A Case Study of Town and City Councils Throughout Andalusia on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube

The Use and Management of Public Information in Social Media: A Case Study of Town and City Councils Throughout Andalusia on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube

Inmaculada Sánchez-Labella Martín (University of Seville, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3119-8.ch021

Abstract

The increase of political disaffection in Spain, as is occurring in many western democracies across the world, coincides with a growing vindication of democracy on the part of the citizenry, which translates to a demand for more governmental transparency and access to information. With this in mind, this chapter explores the availability of information in local public administrations on social media. The study analyses the presence of town and city councils throughout Andalusia on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, examining how these media are managed and their effects, by studying the content and resources provided to the citizens for interacting with the institutions. The results revealed that although the selected councils tried to adopt these new information channels, they are still far from taking full advantage of the possibilities the new technologies could provide.
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Introduction

Local authorities constitute the most direct conduit between citizens and public administrations. They are the gateway for most of the requests that citizens make to their political representatives, who in turn have the duty to attend to, manage and process petitions, either within the same town hall or by appealing to other institutions (Bosón, Torres, Royos, & Flores, 2012). In this sense, Campillo Alhama (2011, p. 1036) points out that citizens must be informed and have access to all the information on administrative procedures and actions that may influence their situation. It is based on the idea that transparency is a basic democratic principle and that its role in the public sphere requires that administrations publish and make accessible general information that may be of interest to citizens (Gandía, Marrahí, & Huguet, 2016, p. 29).

This study is framed in a context in which Spain (as is occurring in many other EU countries) is experiencing a growing disaffection with the political class, which is augmented by the lack of a tradition in government transparency which coincides with a growing demand for democracy by the citizens (Villoria, 2014). Given this scenario, a new law regulating transparency, access to public information, and good governance was put on the books in Spain (Ley 19/2013, de 9 de diciembre, de Transparencia, Acceso a la Información Pública y Buen Gobierno). In its preamble, the document enthrones transparency, access to public information and good governance standards as “the fundamental axes of all political action”. Despite this, compliance with the law by administrations has not been uniform and there is still the problem of the lack of facilities for users to access this information in an intelligible way (Beltrán Orenes & Martínez-Pastor, 2016). This law has already had its transposition in almost all the Spanish autonomous communities. In the case of Catalonia, as an empirical result of this implementation, the heads of the Journalism and Communication Laboratory for Plural Citizenship of the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona (Moreno Sardà, Molina Rodríguez Navas, Corcoy Rius, Aguilar Pérez, & Borrás Farran, 2013) prepared the Infoparticipate Map. The map is an online platform that was developed from 2012 with the purpose of collaborating to remedy the lack of Spanish legislation on transparency. The main objective of this project, which was extended in the first phase to the autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Canary Islands, Madrid, Andalusia, Aragon and Galicia, was to evaluate the information to ensure that public administrations improve their communication practices and offer complete and understandable transparent information, so that citizens can exercise their legitimate rights to democratic control and evaluation of institutions.

Given this scenario, and based on Law 19/2013, cited above, this chapter emerges as a complementary line of research to the one developed by the Catalan Research Group in its R&D&I project entitled: “Methodologies and information models for monitoring the actions of those responsible for local governments and accountability.” The work starts from considering that in today's society, in which technological development is the protagonist, easy access and the correct disposition of online information by local authorities creates a growing need for all citizens. Beyond its presence through web portals, it is considered convenient to pay attention to the use and management of information on social networks as an instrument that allows citizen participation. Thus, the objective is to analyse how the main municipalities of each Andalusian province share public information through these new channels which are presented as a communication and interaction tool between administrations and citizens.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Information Transparency: Basic democratic principle that obliges state agencies to publish information of public interest and make it accessible.

Multidirectional Communication: Takes place in a communicative process in which the sender sends a message to a receiver, through a channel, and forwards it to another subject so that they all become senders and receivers of the information at the same time.

Information Accessibility: Ability to provide citizens with access to information regardless of the means in which it is available.

Accountability: Action to provide public information to citizens about a certain activity that affects them given their contribution through taxes.

Interaction in Social Networks: Action-Reaction that users exercise on content published on a profile.

Engagement in Social Networks: Commitment and loyalty by users to the content published on social networks.

Open Government: Government willingness to openly display information of a public nature and of interest to citizens.

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